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Search warrants issued before an FBI raid of the office and hotel room of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, show authorities sought details on Cohen’s efforts to stave off negative publicity about his client, according to multiple reports.
The president was named several times in the warrants, which surfaced Monday, CBS News reported.
Among other records, FBI agents sought information on the release of the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, in which the president could be heard on a hot mic making derogatory comments about women, The New York Times reported.
It was not immediately clear if Cohen was involved in the release of that tape, which was obtained by The Washington Post in 2016 and published just before that year’s election.
The Times previously reported that FBI agents focused on seizing records related to payments Cohen made to a pair of women who claim they had sexual relationships with Trump: Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who said they had a sexual encounter in 2006, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she had a nearly year-long affair with the president in 2006 and 2007.
Officials also sought details on the role that the publisher of The National Enquirer played in keeping the women’s stories from going public, according to The Times.
Cohen's attorney Stephen Ryan called the raid "completely inappropriate and unnecessary," in a statement released Monday afternoon. He said it stemmed from a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, its possible ties to the Trump presidential campaign and related matters.
The president has denied that he had an affair with either McDougal or Daniels, whose birth name is Stephanie Clifford, and has frequently called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2018
"This is a pure and simple witch hunt," Trump said Monday afternoon, after news of the raid on Cohen’s hotel and office surfaced. "This is an attack on our country."
The president threatened to sue NBC after the “Access Hollywood” recording was released in 2016, telling Fox News that, “The microphone was not supposed to be on, not that I make that as an excuse for myself.” He faced heavy criticism for his comments, which appeared to describe sexual assault, and dismissed them as “locker room talk” during a presidential debate in 2016.