The FBI raid on the offices of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen - one of the president's closest and longest-serving confidants - has rattled investors, political analysts and even the president himself as many have determined - correctly, it seems - that these raids represent nothing short of a major turning point in the long-running Mueller probe.
Since investigators must convince a judge that there's a high possibility they will discover evidence of criminality before receiving approval for a search warrant, the criminal stakes for Cohen - who has been accused by a watchdog group of lying under oath and of violating campaign finance laws in connection with his $130,000 Stormy Daniels payoff - have never been higher.
And in a 13-part twitter thread published this morning, Adam Davidson (the New Yorker staff writer and host of popular podcast Planet Money) explained exactly why the raid on Cohen's office is such a watershed moment in the probe.
The upshot, is that, other than Don Jr. or Ivanka turning states' witness against their father, Cohen is the former Trump Organization dealmaker who is most likely to provide investigators with evidence of criminality.
As Davidson explains, Cohen's role within the Trump administration was never that of a typical attorney - the firm had other attorneys who handled the legal grunt work.
Cohen's role could best be described as "roving dealmaker" - perhaps the only resident dealmaker in the Trump Organization who wasn't a member of the Trump family.
Because of this, Cohen had a front-row seat when the Trump Organization turned to shady third-tier oligarchs - a group that includes corrupt politicians, sanctions violators and money launderers - for financing after the president rescued his business from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1990s.
If Cohen were to flip, he could provide damning testimony against Don Jr. and Ivanka.
Michael Cohen is the most important non-Trump in the Trump business world.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
He oversaw nearly all the foreign deals as the Trump Org shifted its focus to sketchy third-tier overseas oligarchs.
He was not part of the Trump Org legal team in any real sense. Trump Org lawyers either set up contracts for deals others had brought or they handled litigation.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Cohen did neither. He was a deal maker. The only non-Trump deal maker doing all those international deals.
He, Ivanka, and Don, Jr., were the entire global development team at a time when the company was exploring dozens of deals all over the world.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
If he were to flip, it would be Ivanka and Don, Jr. who should be most worried.
Trump did business with these shady oligarchs more or less openly. The only question - and this is the whole reason why Mueller bothered to subpoena the Trump Organization - is how much did the Trump's know about their partners' violations of sanctions and international law?
We know, of course, that the Trump Org did business with corrupt politicians, sanctions-violators, money launderers, etc. The only open question is how much they knew about their partners' activity.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Cohen knows how much they knew. He knows what he told them.
As anybody who remembers the email Cohen allegedly sent to a Kremlin spokesman regarding Trump Tower Moscow might have already guessed, Cohen is clearest link between the Trumps and Russia.
He is also the most obvious link between Trump and Russia. He oversaw the deal in Georgia which was, explicitly, a first attempt at a former Soviet deal with the goal of a ring of Trump properties all over the CIS.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Cohen flew to Kazakhstan and negotiated the failed deal there with Timur Kulibayev, a close ally of Putin's.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Cohen then worked on the Trump Moscow deal in 2015/2016.
In none of these deals was he acting like a traditional lawyer--simply advising, writing contracts, etc. He was in the country, meeting with the partners, structuring the deal, going back to NY and explaining the deal to the big boss and his kids.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Many were stunned when Trump made Cohen his sole personal attorney post election. But the appointment makes sense: The goal was to get sensitive document's about Cohen's role out of the Trump Organization and into a private office. Cohen, of course, ran his practice with a single client: Trump.
Now, we can be sure that whatever documents they had tried to hide from Mueller are now in the hands of the FBI.
Other than the President, nobody knows as much as Cohen. (And Cohen does seem to have a good memory).— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
It was stunning that Trump made Cohen his sole personal attorney post-election. Cohen left the Trump Org to form a firm with one client: the President.
But Cohen had never acted as a regular attorney for Trump. He had always been the fixer/deal-maker. So, the move to his new private firm seems solely designed to provide attorney-client privilege. To get his documents out of the Trump Org and into a private office.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Therefore, Davidson concludes, the raid on Cohen's office is the outcome that Trump has been most worried about since the beginning of the probe - hence his unusually forceful condemnation of the raid when he was supposed to be discussing options for a military response in Syria.
This moment is what Trump has been terrified of and trying to avoid since long before Comey was fired and Mueller appointed.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Short of Ivanka or Don, Jr. flipping, Cohen is the key witness.
What's worse for Trump, as Davidson points out, Cohen has some reason to feel abandoned - or at least neglected - by his longtime boss. Trump didn't bring Cohen to the White House with him - instead leaving him to run his practice in New York.
He knows way, way more than Manafort or Gates.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Also key: it's been a rough year-plus for Cohen. He lost his place in Trump's inner-circle, didn't get the big ticket to the WH.
And while Cohen has been a stalwart defender of the president in the press, Davidson says acts of loyalty in Trump world are typically for show.
He has been loudly/vocally loyal, But, in my experience, nobody in Trump-world is truly loyal. It's all transactional and a grand performance. (People have actually told me: I don't care how you make Trump look, just make me look like I am defending him.)— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
Of course, the president can always pardon Cohen - and such a pardon is extremely likely, Davidson believes.
I'd guess the probability of a Cohen-pardon is high and the likelihood of Mueller being fired has grown.— Adam Davidson (@adamdavidson) April 10, 2018
I would also guess that there are NY state charges.
Mueller, of course, knows all this and much more and referred the raid anyway.
It's on now.
Despite the nature of Cohen's relationship with Trump and his role in the Trump Organization, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz warned Monday during an appearance on Fox News that the FBI raid was an assault on the privileged lawyer-client relationship. Dershowitz said the raid was an attempt to turn Cohen against Trump.
"This may be an attempt to squeeze Cohen," he said. "He's the lawyer, he's the guy who knows all the facts about Donald Trump, and to get him to turn against his client."
"This is a very dangerous day today for lawyer-client relations," he added.
But most importantly, Cohen said the raid was so dangerous because it gives the FBI the option of deciding which information seized from Cohen should be pursued.
The likelihood that Trump fires Mueller has never been higher, Davidson says. However, Mueller probably anticipated this - that's why he sought approval from the DOJ to transfer whatever incriminating evidence he had found to prosecutors in New York, who are presumably beyond Trump's grasp.
But regardless of what happens - if Cohen is swiftly indicted or if this is just the beginning of months of legal wrangling - one thing is for certain: The Cohen raid was a watershed moment.
After more than a year of plodding along, expect developments in the Mueller probe to start occurring at a much faster pace.