07:06 GMT09 August 2020
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    The recent release of hundreds of heavily redacted court records regarding the federal investigation into Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former longtime lawyer, offers a concerning glimpse into the police state atmosphere in the nation's capital, author and journalist Daniel Lazare told Sputnik.

    "To me what's really important is that the FBI and the special prosecutor had access to Cohen's emails at a time when he was intimately involved in the Trump administration's inner workings," Lazare told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear on Tuesday.

    "Now, we know that the federal prosecutor or the FBI or both had access to [Trump's] closest adviser's personal emails, therefore were scrutinizing… the most intimate communications between [Cohen] and the Oval Office. To me this is very, very dangerous… [a] very worrisome example of the kind of police state atmosphere that we increasingly seem to have in Washington."

    ​Newly unsealed documents released to the public on Tuesday showed that investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller had been looking into Cohen's dealings and ties to the Trump administration since at least July 2017, just two months after Mueller had initially taken on the job, and only six months into Trump's takeover of the Oval Office.

    The 900 pages of court records regarding Cohen include affidavits and search warrants that ultimately gave investigators the legal authority to later conduct a search of Cohen's homes and office in 2018. The April 2018 raid of Cohen's properties resulted in the seizure of some 4 million files.

    Documents also show that Mueller's team obtained Cohen's phone records and used high-tech devices known as Stingrays or Triggerfish to pinpoint the exact location of his mobile devices. Investigators confiscated more than a dozen mobile devices, iPads, external hard drives, flash drives and laptops.

    Addressing the mainstream media's coverage of the court records, Lazare told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that the "corporate media has cheered on Mueller at every step, and has been utterly uncritical of this whole special prosecutor process."

    "That's what I find as the worst aspect of its coverage," he stressed. "There's been no criticism, no questioning, no thought really at all as to what this is all about, but we know that the FBI and special prosecutor were essentially listening in on the inner workings of the Oval Office, and that to me raises a lot of red flags, especially since we now know that all the fears of a Russian connection… turned out to be vastly overblown."

    Speaking to the underlying factor pushing Mueller's investigation forward, Lazare told Becker that everything that has resulted from the Russiagate probe is "clearly just part of the Russia wars that are going on in Washington."

    "What happened is clearly that Trump had made various overtures to the Kremlin, and the foreign policy establishment… panicked and went into overdrive and launched a… sort of a non-shooting war in order to stop Trump in his tracks from changing the overall US policy orientation towards Moscow," he explained. "All of these indictments flow from this."

    "As despicable as a guy like Paul Manafort is, the fact is, he's only where he is because he wound up on the wrong side of the political fence," Lazare added.

    Manafort, who for a short time served as Trump's campaign chairman, was indicted at the request of Mueller's team in October 2017 on multiple charges stemming from his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government. He is due to spend more than seven years in jail after being convicted of several tax and bank fraud charges and pleading guilty to two conspiracy counts.

    As for Cohen, he is scheduled to begin serving his three-year prison sentence in May. Mueller's investigation into Cohen led to the disbarred lawyer's August 2018 guilty plea in which he admitted to violating campaign finance laws, among others.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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