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What is Attorney-Client Privilege and do Trump and Cohen have it?

Last week, the FBI raided the home, office, and hotel of longtime Trump lawyer (fixer, Olivia Pope, guy your Jewish grandma calls a "schmuck") Michael Cohen. The feds took a safe deposit box, documents and cell phones based on a "referral" from special counsel Robert Mueller. Reports claim that the FBI was looking for records regarding the alleged hush money payments el Senor Orangeskin's attorney made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougall. Some also say Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. Exciting stuff!

Does this have anything to do with Russia?

Well, it's unclear. If the discoveries made in the raid aren't deemed relevant to the Russian collusion investigation, they won't be given to Mueller's team. If there's any evidence found during the raid that supports the claim that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in an attempt to alter the outcome of the 2016 elections, the Justice Department can hand it over to Mueller. Either way, a raid can only be approved if the FBI has probable cause to believe that Cohen has evidence of a federal crime, so we know something exciting is going on over there.

How's Trump taking it?

Oh, he's shook. Shortly after the raid he tweeted out this little gem.

So what is attorney-client privilege and does it protect Trump in this instance?

Attorney-client privilege is a legal principle that says communications between an attorney and their client can be kept secret.

Unfortunately for Senor Stable Genius, the Supreme Court ruled in Clark v. United States (1933) the this privilege can be revoked if a client consults an attorney for advice that will help him commit fraud or criminal activities. Essentially, your conversations with your lawyer aren't protected if the conversations are you two plotting how to commit a crime.

Since there is no specific criteria on what constitutes fraud, the question of whether Cohen and Trump's conversations are protected will likely become part of the larger legal battle. Jeff Sessions' Justice Department has responded by creating an aptly named "taint team," which will filter out material before it gets to prosecutors. Additionally, a letter filed with the court on Sunday night on behalf of Cohen and Trump states that they should be able to review the documents that were seized before prosecutors. Basically Trump's team wants to determine what is or isn't covered under privilege for THEMSELVES. They seem pretty trustworthy, right?


Sorry...that wasn't a question. Just keep reading.

Cohen is also trying to argue that his other clients' information and documents were seized in the raid and that those are also protected by attorney-client privilege. We just learned, for example, that Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity is a client of his! What fun!

Hilariously, prosecutors have stated that based on previous search warrants on Cohen's email accounts, he's actually performing little to no legal work. If that's the case, much of what was seized in the raid isn't actually protected. (You can talk to your lawyer in private, but not your buddies.) On Monday, federal judge, Kimba M. Wood, denied this request by Trump and his fixer upper. She did, however, decide that prosecutors would not have immediate access to the seized materials and intends to employ the help of an independent lawyer.