May 3, 2018

UPDATE: NBC News has corrected their report to say that they monitored who used Cohen's lines, rather than actual eavesdropping on conversations.

Ken Dilanian writes on Twitter: "NBC News has corrected its story: Michael Cohen's phones were being monitored by a pen register, not a wiretap, senior U.S. officials say. Pen registers capture "to and from" calling and texting information, but not content."

- Karoli

NBC broke the news today that Michael Cohen's phone (or phones) were tapped in the weeks leading up the FBI raid of his office, home and hotel room. Uh oh. Even worse - at least one call between Cohen and the White House was recorded!

HUNT: We start off with big breaking news - an NBC news exclusive investigation. We're learning that federal investigators wiretapped the phone lines of Michael Cohen, the President's longtime lawyer, weeks before last month's raid at Cohen's office, home and hotel room. We begin with NBC's Tom Winter, NBC's Julia Ainsley, MSNBC legal analyst Danny Sevalas, Michael Avenatti. John was also Robert Mueller's Chief of Staff at the FBI. I want to welcome all of you. Julia Ainsley, Tom Winter, you two broke this story. as this is unfolding. tom, I want to start with you. Walk us through what we know.

WINTER: Okay, what we know is federal investigators pursuant to a lawful court order warrant were able to wiretap the phone lines of Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. That this wiretap occurred several weeks before the now public search warrant that was executed here in New York several weeks ago. In addition to that, we've learned at least one phone call conversation between a line belonging to Michael Cohen and the White House was also intercepted. So right now, I think the key headlines, there was a wiretap associated with the search warrant in the investigation into Michael Cohen who is of course trump's personal attorney.

The second thing we've learned is there's at least one phone conversation that was picked up on a phone line belonging to Michael Cohen and the White House and the third is this was going on for several weeks before that search warrant took place. I'll let my colleague talk about it, this has been a discussion within the White House, but this is obviously just another step in the investigation and, as we know from court papers, federal prosecutors have already said they conducted covert surveillance of Michael Cohen's e-mails leading up to the search warrant being executed. this is a lot more than just knocking on the door and just asking for some documents, Kacie.

HUNT: Tom, thanks for that. Julia, i want you to weigh in with more on what we know. A call between Michael Cohen and the White House, what does that mean?

AINSLEY: We know there's a White House line. presumably, that could have been the President, that could have been someone on his staff. but we do know that Rudy Giuliani gave his client, his new client, right after the Cohen raid, the advice. do not contact Michael Cohen. His line has been tapped. Because he knew he had the legal evidence to be able to issue those search warrants to come into his offices, his hotel room. so he, being the long experienced lawyer that he is --

HUNT: He just can't --

AINSLEY: He made an assumption, don't call him, and he did anyway.

HUNT: the President?

AINSLEY: Yes, the President did. He rebuffed the advice of his lawyer. It turns out this was pretty good advice. Even before the raid a few weeks before, those lines had been wiretapped. As Tom lays out, there is a legal bar to do that. Which shows they had to go to a judge and show there was enough evidence in order to be able to get that surveillance. It's another level of surveillance. It's another reason why Giuliani and Trump would be worried about what information federal investigators are able to get for Michael Cohen.

HUNT: Tom, to that point, just to be very, very clear, what is the standard for getting a wiretap like this? What would have had to unfold behind the scenes for this to occur?

WINTER: So, Kacie, one of the things that would have had to happen is they would have had to say we tried every single investigative method we could possibly do short of wiretapping these phones, or if we tried those methods, any single -- in every single investigative method we would need, if we tried those methods, they would fail, and they would have to present that case, and these are not just three or four page warrant applications, these are significant affidavits filed presumably in this case by a special agent with the FBI who would lay out all the particulars as far as -- it goes to exhaustion, essentially anything we could try or anything we did try won't get us the information, that we have probable cause that we believe we can get on this wiretap.

It lays out a tremendous cause as far as other evidence they would have come up with, that would have allowed them to convince a judge we have real reason to believe here we have some sort of criminal violation that occurred. In addition, typically, you have to lay out -- we prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg in regard to this. In actual manuals for U.S. Attorneys, typically it says you have to find evidence of an ongoing crime. This isn't typically where say we rob add bank five years ago they could come up to our phones today and say maybe we hope they talked about it. In this case, you can say this is an ongoing conspiracy to cover up that bank robbery --

HUNT: or we were plan to rob another bank.

WINTER: Right, we may be lining up to rob another bank. I know that's kind of a silly example but I think it's a good way of explaining exactly how this would go down and at the end of the day, a judge has to sign off on. Judge's sometimes kick these back and say no, go back, I need you to try a couple more methods. Get me some more evidence that you think there's an actual crime here. This isn't something where a federal judge will just say, yes, you want to listen to somebody's phone conversation, sure, I'll sign it right now. That's not how this goes. There's a significant legal process that has to occur here. It's laid out in one document that the Justice Department has to guide its attorneys. It's over 200 pages as far as some of the things you need to consider and some of the case law you have that allows you to do this. This is a complicated process and it's one that needs to be signed off, like I said, by a federal judge.

Drip drip drip. What was caught on that recording? Did they also get text messages and emails?

Can you help us out?

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