NEWS
10/04/2018 17:05 SAST | Updated 10/04/2018 17:05 SAST

Trump Fumes Over Michael Cohen Raid: 'Attorney-Client Privilege Is Dead'

Experts are pushing back on Trump’s claim about the legal privilege.

U.S. president Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday that "attorney-client privilege is dead", a day after the FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer.

The New York Times reported that investigators are examining records related to a payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, in addition to other unspecified topics.

The raid comes less than a week after Trump publicly denied knowing about Cohen's $130,000 [~R1.57-million] payment in 2016 to Daniels, who has claimed the money was meant to keep her quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006.

Legal experts pushed back on Trump's claim on Tuesday that attorney-client privilege ― a legal safeguard for confidential communications between an attorney and a client ― is "dead". Attorney-client privilege may be invoked during the pre-trial process of obtaining evidence, known as discovery, or when an attorney is asked to testify under oath.

Lawyers, including Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, disputed the president's suggestion that the FBI search of Cohen's office violated the protection. Some pointed to the very high bar the FBI needed to pass to obtain a search warrant of this nature, including getting approval from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who happens to be a Trump appointee.

As tweeted by George Conway, an attorney and the husband of White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, the U.S. department of justice defines when an attorney can legally be subjected to a search.

"There are occasions when effective law enforcement may require the issuance of a search warrant for the premises of an attorney who is a subject of an investigation, and who also is or may be engaged in the practice of law on behalf of clients," the justice department says on its website.