A Monday Afternoon Warrant, Syria, the U.S. Response, and What's to Come from Zuckerberg

 

Late this afternoon  U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized emails, letters, and tax documents from Michael Cohen's office. The raid came after a referral from special counsel Robert Muller.  The raid comes a few short weeks after Cohen was questioned about his involvement in paying Stormy Daniels $130,000 in 'hush money' before the 2016 election. Emily Jane Fox, a senior Vanity Fair Reporter, told MSNBC News that a second venue, Cohen's hotel room in New York City, was also raided. Backroom Politics' own Sharmila Acahri weighed in on the potential legal impact of the raid. “There is no reason to believe that this raid is directly connected to the Russia investigation but it can be interpreted as an indication that special counsel Muller found information of interest within the investigation and reported it to the FBI". The warrants issued by the FBI and the subsequent raid likely do not implicate Trump directly but point towards potential wrongdoing by Michael Cohen. What is particular of interest in this specific raid is that it took place at Cohen’s office and likely contained information that is protected by attorney-client privilege. This privilege does protect communications between Cohen and the President unless such communication fell within an exception that voided that privilege. For example, if the President had approached his personal attorney with information that he intended to or was in the process of committing an unlawful act, that communication would not be protected. The FBI only has to demonstrate reasonable cause that an attorney was engaged in criminal activity in order to issue a warrant. Although it is likely that this search will remain limited to illegal attorney conduct and won’t reach as far up as the Oval Office, it is without a doubt poor optics for the White House and reasonable cause for concern. 

Over the weekend 70 plus people died in Douma, Syria as a result of a chemical attack. According to a report in Al Jazeera, a chlorine gas and and unidentified but stronger gas was drooped on Douma. The United States government over the weekend did warn of a global response absent Syria if reports of the chemical attack was confirmed. The Syrian government did not seem as concerned, calling the the chemical attack a ‘fabrication’ and dismissing talk of the Syrian government using poisonous gas as ‘farcical’.

John Bolton’s first day on the job and he is already in the midst of a foreign policy debate. Early this morning an attack on a Syrian air base killed 14 people. The Russian Ministry of Defense was quick to claim Israel was behind the attack and fired 8 missiles at their air base. A state run RIA Novosti agency reported that two Israeli F-15 warplanes launched airstrikes on the T-4 base in central Syria from Lebanese territory. There has been no response from Israeli officials regarding the strike President Trump today identified the chemical weapon attack that took place in Syria this past weekend as a “Barbaric act”.  During a cabinet meeting this morning the President stated that the issue was being “very seriously” and that action would be taken very quickly, probably by the end of today. We cannot allow atrocities like that”. This statement comes less than a week after the President revealed intentions to pull U.S. military from Syria.

Mark Zuckerberg began to publicly take responsibility for Facebook information being used by Cambridge Analytical. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the joint Senate judiciary and Commerce Committee tomorrow, and before the House on Wednesday. A prepared statement was released today in which Zuckerberg claimed full responsibilities for Facebook’s actions; “I started Facebook, I run it, and I am responsible for what happens here. The statement reiterated Facebook’s purpose to connect people and give them a voice but calcified that any connection or voice should be positive and not used to spread misinformation or fake news.  In this statement Zuckerberg identified issues involving Cambridge Analytica and Russian Election interference, and listed steps to remedy the wrong doings. Although the statement noted any remedy would take time, the statement claimed Facebook was committed to improving the way people’s information was protected as well as improving election safeguards around the world. The questions asked by the Senate tomorrow will gives us a better idea of how the U.S. government plans to get involved in regulating its citizen’s privacy on the internet and in voluntary social media platforms.