A federal judge authorized prosecutors to seize the records on Monday, but Mr. Cohen is challenging their authority to review them. The warrant sought all documents, including emails between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump, related to Mr. Cohen’s efforts to suppress negative publicity ahead of the 2016 election.
Communications between lawyers and their clients are normally off limits to prosecutors but there are exceptions, including when the materials are considered part of an ongoing crime.
The raid on Mr. Cohen surprised and angered the president, who has been frustrated with the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference, the Kremlin’s possible coordination with Trump associates and whether the president has been deliberately trying to obstruct those inquiries. On Monday, Mr. Trump called the raid an “attack on our country in a true sense.”
Federal agents in New York were looking for information about Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims she had a nearly yearlong affair with Mr. Trump shortly after the birth of his youngest son in 2006. American Media Inc., which owns the National Enquirer, paid Ms. McDougal $150,000. The chief executive of America Media Inc. is a friend of Mr. Trump’s.
Agents were also searching Mr. Cohen’s office and hotel room for information related to Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress. Ms. Clifford has said she had sex with Mr. Trump while he was married. Mr. Cohen has acknowledged that he paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence days before the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump recently told reporters he knew nothing about the agreement.
The seized records also include communications between Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, who joined Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, in 2006, which would most likely require a special team of agents to review because conversations between lawyers and clients are protected from scrutiny in most instances.
Searching a law office is one of the most sensitive — and most heavily reviewed — activities the Justice Department conducts. It is rare to seek documents from lawyers in any case, but doing so by search rather than subpoena is unusually aggressive and is typically reserved for cases when prosecutors believe that the lawyer would conceal or destroy evidence if asked for it.