FBI agents who raided the home, office and hotel of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer sought communications that Trump had with attorney Michael Cohen and others regarding the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump making lewd remarks about women a month before the election, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The warrant’s specific reference to Trump is the first known direct mention of the President in a search warrant, and sources said it appeared in connection with “Access Hollywood.”
One of the sources said the warrant also referenced an investigation into wire fraud and bank fraud. CNN previously reported FBI agents removed Cohen’s computer, cell phone, business files and financial documents, according to the source.
The search warrant also sought communications between then-candidate Trump and his associates regarding efforts to prevent disclosure of the tape, according to one of the sources. In addition, investigators wanted records and communications concerning other potential negative information about the candidate that the campaign would have wanted to contain ahead of the election. The source said the warrant was not specific about what this additional information would be.
The warrant is the first indication that investigators suspect there was any effort to suppress the tape. It is not clear Cohen played any role in the Access Hollywood controversy.
An attorney for Cohen didn’t respond immediately to request for comment. Cohen’s attorney has said the search was carried out on behalf of the US attorney’s office in Manhattan in part because of a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller.
The warrant itself also tracks very closely to information already known about efforts by Trump’s team to suppress negative information about Stormy Daniels, a porn star who alleges a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who says she had an affair with Trump between 2006 and 2007, the source said. There were no other women beyond Daniels and McDougal named in the warrant in regard to the President, the source said.
Three sources with knowledge believe that the information sought was not just to target Cohen but was also clearly aimed at discovering what Trump knew, if anything, about these efforts and any potential involvement he may have had in keeping the information from going public.
Trump has denied relationships with both Daniels and McDougal. The President recently denied any knowledge of the payment Cohen made to Daniels to keep her story quiet.
A source with knowledge of the matter said NBCUniversal, which produces “Access,” has not been contacted by Mueller’s office or the Southern District of New York. There has been no subpoena, the source said.
An NBC spokesman declined to comment.
The circumstances of the leaked Access Hollywood tape remain something of a mystery. NBC has long held that it was about to broadcast the tape when The Washington Post obtained and published it.
According to the network, the tape sat on a shelf for years before being discovered during the late stages of the presidential election.
It is unknown how many people at NBC had access to the tape.
The Post published the video on October 7, just a month before the 2016 election. That same day, the Obama administration accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee and meddling in the presidential election. Soon after, The Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape and then WikiLeaks began publishing stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta within an hour of the tape’s release.