The FBI raided Michael Cohen's offices and home in a search that was partly a referral by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, who is tasked with investigating alleged Russian meddling into the 2016 US election.
Federal agents on Monday raided the office of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen, seizing records on topics including a $130,000 payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
A furious Trump, who in the last month has escalated his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, said from the White House that it was a "disgrace" that the FBI "broke into" his lawyer's office.
He called Mueller's investigation "an attack on our country," prompting new speculation that he might seek the removal of the Justice Department's special counsel.
The raid was done by the US Attorney's office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller, according to Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan.
"The decision by the US Attorney's Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary," Ryan said in a statement.
"It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients."
The raid creates a new legal headache for Trump even as he and his attorneys weigh whether to agree to an interview with Mueller's team, which in addition to investigating potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign is also examining whether the president's actions constitute obstruction of justice.
The law enforcement action will almost certainly amplify the public scrutiny on the payment to Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump in 2006. The payment was made just days before the 2016 presidential election, and Trump told reporters last week that he did not know about it.
To obtain a warrant, prosecutors and agents must convince a judge that they have probable cause of criminal activity and that they believe they'll find evidence of wrongdoing in a search.
A warrant requires multiple levels of approval within the Justice Department, and agency guidelines impose additional hurdles when the target of a search is an attorney like Cohen.
Authorities working with Mueller chose a similar tactic last summer when they raided the Virginia home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was subsequently indicted and is awaiting trial.
In this case, though, Mueller opted to refer the matter to federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Besides Cohen's office, agents also searched a hotel room where he's been staying while his home is under renovation.
Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then will determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department.
A spokesman for Mueller's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the US attorney's office also had no comment. The New York Times first reported on Monday's raid.
Ryan did not elaborate on the documents that were taken from Cohen's office but said he has cooperated with investigators, including meeting last summer with lawmakers looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.