On Monday, the FBI raided a hotel room and an office used by President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The agency reportedly seized documents related to Cohen's $130,000 payment to an adult film actress who claims to have had an affair with the president over a decade ago. (The White House has denied the affair on Trump's behalf.) On Tuesday, reports surfaced indicating that the actress in question, Stormy Daniels, is cooperating with federal officials investigating Cohen and the money he gave her.
Daniel's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, confirmed on Twitter that his client was, in fact cooperating. "My client @stormydaniels and I will fully cooperate with any search for the truth regarding the threats, cover-up and lies concerning the NDA and $130k payment," he wrote. "Unlike others, we don’t require the presence of the fine members of the FBI in order to speak honestly."
The entire scope of the Cohen investigation is not yet clear, though the FBI reportedly seized tax documents, business documents, and communications between he and the president. However, The New York Times reports that the FBI was also looking for documents related to another woman who claims to have had an affair with the president. Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, says she had a year-long affair with Trump in 2006, the same time that Daniels said her affair took place.
A White House spokesperson has denied Trump had an affair with McDougal, telling The New Yorker, "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal." McDougal, like Daniels, is suing to try to extricate herself from an agreement she claims was intended to keep her quiet about the alleged affair.
Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said in a statement that "Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath."
"The decision by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary," Ryan said. "It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients."
In a press conference Monday evening, Trump excoriated the raid, describing it as, among other things, "a total witch hunt." (He doubled down on that sentiment on Twitter Tuesday morning, tweeting the same thing.)
On Monday, Trump said that the FBI was stacked against him, and that there were many issues surrounding Democrats that the agency was declining to investigate. "They're not looking at the Hillary Clinton, horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed," Trump said of the agency. "They're not looking at all of things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the Independent side."
The raid on Michael Cohen's office was reportedly triggered by information that Special Counsel Robert Mueller unearthed while investigating whether or not there was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Because the information uncovered was not directly related to what Mueller and his team were tasked with looking into, he reportedly passed that information on to the Department of Justice, which then sent it along to the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Daniels says that the $130,000 payment which Cohen paid her was "hush" money, and that it was part of a nondisclosure agreement she signed in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. The NDA, she says, was intended to keep her from publicly speaking about her alleged affair with Trump. Trump told reporters last week that he had no knowledge of Cohen's payment, and that he also didn't know where they money came from. It was the first time that Trump ever publicly acknowledged the affair rumors.
Trump opponents claim that the payout was an unreported in-kind donation to the Trump campaign. They say this is the case because the money was intended to affect the outcome of the presidential election. For his part, Cohen has denied this.