It’s very hard to get a search warrant for a lawyer’s office. (More)

“No warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause….”

Most search warrants are governed by the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

For a search warrant, probable cause means “credible evidence” sufficient to establish “a fair probability that a search will result in evidence of a crime being discovered.”

So if the cops think someone hid a van full of contraband in a garage, the officer applying for the warrant must give specific facts to establish that the van contains contraband, and that the van was hidden in that garage. They can’t search every garage in the area. They also can’t search desks, lockers, and other small spaces because the warrant affidavit specifies that they’re looking for the van and its cargo. And if the affidavit specifies a “green, full-sized Econoline van” … they can’t search minivans, or white vans, unless they find evidence that the cargo has been transfered or the van has been repainted.

Still, search warrants are pretty much routine …

“The least intrusive approach”

… unless you want to search a lawyer’s office. Then the Sixth Amendment right to counsel becomes an issue, and the bar for a search warrant goes way, way up. The U.S. Attorneys Manual, Section 9-13.420 specifies standards and procedures for searches of lawyers’ offices:

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. Because of the potential effects of this type of search on legitimate attorney-client relationships and because of the possibility that, during such a search, the government may encounter material protected by a legitimate claim of privilege, it is important that close control be exercised over this type of search. Therefore, the following guidelines should be followed with respect to such searches:

(A) Alternatives to Search Warrants. In order to avoid impinging on valid attorney-client relationships, prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach consistent with vigorous and effective law enforcement when evidence is sought from an attorney actively engaged in the practice of law. Consideration should be given to obtaining information from other sources or through the use of a subpoena, unless such efforts could compromise the criminal investigation or prosecution, or could result in the obstruction or destruction of evidence, or would otherwise be ineffective.

As a practical matter, that means FBI agents and prosecutors need evidence that the lawyer has committed a crime, on his own or on behalf of a client. And – critically – they need evidence that no less intrusive approach would be effective, for example: that the lawyer has defied court orders and destroyed evidence in prior cases.

The guidelines require that the warrant application be reviewed by the Criminal Division of the local U.S. Attorney’s office, and approved by the local U.S. Attorney or a pertinent Assistant Attorney General. So an FBI agent can’t simply go to a judge with an application to search a lawyer’s office. Neither can a line-level prosecutor. And neither can special counsel Robert Mueller. This warrant application was approved by the U.S. Attorney for Southern New York and Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – both of whom were appointed by the God-King – before it was submitted to a magistrate.

The guidelines also require safeguards “to ensure that the prosecution team is not ‘tainted’ by any privileged material inadvertently seized during the search.” Typically, that means the seized materials is first reviewed by a ‘dirty team,’ or a court-appointed magistrate, who remove any materials that would be protected by attorney-client privilege. The ‘dirty team’ or magistrate then pass only non-privileged materials to a ‘clean team’ … the agents and prosecutors investigating the case. Finally, the ‘dirty team’ or magistrate can no longer communicate with the ‘clean team’ until the case is completed.

“Like dropping a bomb on Trump’s front porch”

That’s a whole lot of extra protection given to lawyers, and that’s why former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said “This search warrant is like dropping a bomb on Trump’s front porch.”

The Washington Post reports that Mueller is looking for evidence that Cohen committed bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance violations related to the $130,000 hush-money payoff by Cohen to Stormy Daniels, and the New York Times reports that Mueller is also tracking a $150,000 payment from a pro-Russian steel tycoon in Ukraine, funneled through the Trump Foundation, in exchange for a 2015 video appearance by the God-King. That happened after he began his presidential campaign.

Or, as the God-King fumed last night, “It’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

I guess he thinks we all stand for hush money, bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and foreign payoffs to our political candidates. Maybe because that’s what he stands for.

But our laws don’t.


Photo Credit: Kevin Hagen (New York Times/Redux)


Good day and good nuts