President Donald Trump is in "serious peril" with the ongoing investigation of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and a series of hush-money payoffs.
That's the message from National Review contributing editor Andy McCarthy in an opinion piece for the publication Saturday.
"The government is investigating whether there was, in connection with Trump’s White House bid, a conspiracy to commit fraud and extortion for the purpose of silencing potentially compromising sources — specifically, people in a position to portray Donald Trump as a womanizer," McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, said.
"Clearly, the prosecutors regard Trump and Cohen as potential co-conspirators," he said. "That does not mean a conspiracy will be proven, but the possibility is certainly being scrutinized."
The investigation is different from the investigation into Russian activities during Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, McCarthy said.
"The SDNY is unquestionably conducting a criminal investigation, and a federal judge would not have authorized search warrants absent finding probable cause that federal crimes may have been committed," he added.
McCarthy said he never thought the claims that Trump colluded with Russia put him in jeopardy, as either the Kremlin or "political anti-Trump factions" from either the law-enforcement or intelligence communities would have leaked details.
He also hasn't given special counsel Robert Mueller's obstruction angle much weight," as "there is a line between foolishness and crime," and some of his actions, such as the firing of FBI Director James Comey, were on their face, legal.
But the Cohen matter is different, and holds different implications for Trump, McCarthy, who spent nearly 20 years as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York, wrote.
"I’m always inclined to assume my old office is up to serious business," he said. "I also know well the ostentatiously careful steps the SDNY typically takes to avoid unconstitutional interference in the right to counsel — meaning to distinguish real legal assistance from schemes masquerading as attorney-client relationships."
Just because the prosecution appears to believe Trump and Cohen are co-conspirators, that doesn't necessarily mean that will be proven, but that scenario is "clearly being scrutinized," McCarthy said.
The search warrants against Cohen sought all documents related to Cohen's efforts to suppress negative publicity during the election, according to the New York Times.
They involve burying stories about Trump in connection with adult actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, said McCarthy, and on reports that a former Trump building doorman was paid $30,000 to stay quiet about an unverified claim that Trump, 30 years ago, allegedly fathered a child with a Trump Organization employee.
It's not illegal to enter into non-disclosure agreements, but some other facts surrounding the allegations create worry for Trump, said McCarthy, describing in detail the transactions that had occurred in the cases.
"If a lawyer is involved with a client in a criminal conspiracy, the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege strips their communications of privileged status," he said, and if Cohen had incriminating items in his office, he's not shielded from liability, even if he's a lawyer.
"Trump and Cohen both say that Cohen did not tell Trump about the Clifford arrangement," said McCarthy. "It seems evident that prosecutors are investigating on the theory that Clifford, McDougal, and perhaps others were defrauded or extorted into silence."
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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