A top House Republican on Sunday defended the FBI raid on President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen’s home and office last week, as the president continues to assail what he views as a breach of attorney-client privilege.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, argued that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—who is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and has come under heavy criticism from Trump allies—was right to authorize the raid, and that Mueller was just in referring the matter to prosecutors in New York.
“I don’t know what Mueller was supposed to do other than what he did. When a prosecutor comes in contact with information or evidence of a crime, what are you supposed to do, other than refer to the appropriate jurisdiction?” Gowdy said on Fox News Sunday.
Gowdy characterized the approval process for the raid as arduous and fair, adding that it was ultimately given the green light by a “neutral” judge “who has nothing to do with politics.”
Gowdy, who announced recently that he would not seek re-election, has been one of the top GOP defenders of Mueller and his investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
“How this is Mueller’s fault just defies logic to me,” the South Carolina Republican added.
Trump has called the Cohen raid which took place a week ago “disgraceful” and “an attack on our country in a true sense,” and on Sunday it was still on the president’s mind.
“Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past. I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!” he said.
The Justice Department revealed on Friday that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months over potential “acts of concealment” and “fraud,” and federal prosecutors appeared to undercut Trump’s claim that his attorney-client privilege was violated. The department said the search warrants “indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work.”
Government lawyers sought to undercut claims of attorney-client privilege by mentioning Cohen’s $130,000 payment to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, just days before the 2016 presidential election, in exchange for what Daniels says was her silence about an alleged affair with Trump. In the court filing, the Justice Department said Trump “has publicly denied knowing that Cohen paid Clifford, and suggested to reporters that they had to ‘ask Michael’ about the payment.”
Amid pressure from Trump allies to fire Rosenstein and Mueller, NBC News reported on Friday that Rosenstein, a Trump appointee who is in charge of the Mueller probe because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, was telling confidants that he was preparing to be axed.
“As for Rod Rosenstein, I don’t see a basis for firing him and his handling of this probe,” Gowdy said.
He also cautioned against a plan reportedly pitched by ex-White House aide Steve Bannon to discredit Mueller. “I don’t know who in the hell would take advice from Steve Bannon,” he said.