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Donald Trump doesnâ€™t like to follow the rules. He lies constantly. He cheats on his wife (and not just the current one). His businesses are notorious for stiffing customers and vendors. As president, he has violated one longstanding norm after another. When Trump believes itâ€™s convenient for him to break a rule, he often just decides that the rule doesnâ€™t matter.
This longstanding pattern probably goes a long way toward explaining yesterdayâ€™s events: The F.B.I. conducted a raid of the office and hotel room of Trumpâ€™s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen â€” a raid approved by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, who was appointed by the Trump administration just three months ago.
Think about how extraordinary this is.
Receiving a warrant to search any lawyerâ€™s office is unusual, given the power of attorney-client privilege. And in this case, the office being searched is that of the lawyer representing the president of the United States. Which means that the search required the approval of both top Justice Department officials and a federal judge.
Why would they have granted it? Because they had good reason to believe that Cohen would have refused to follow the rules and voluntarily turn over material relevant to an investigation. As a former senior law enforcement official told CNNâ€™s Jake Tapper, itâ€™s likely that either Cohen â€śwas so uncooperative they couldnâ€™t get the information from subpoena or they had proof there was destruction of evidence.â€ť
People who are willing to break the rules can sometimes get away with it for a long time. But sometimes their history and their misbehavior catch up with them. That now may be happening to Trump. If so, thank goodness. Weâ€™re supposed to be a nation of laws, where rulebreaking brings consequences.
Related: In The Times, Harry Litman â€” a former federal prosecutor â€” explains what the investigators may be looking for.
Asha Rangappa, a former F.B.I. special agent, says the raid is another sign that the Russia probe may continue even if Trump fires Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation: The president â€świll be sorely mistaken if he thinks that getting rid of Mueller will stop anything that has already started rolling in our justice system,â€ť she said.
Trump continues to refuse to play by the rules. The government seems to have followed the exact process for conducting a search of an attorneyâ€™s office, as law professor Steve Vladeck notes. Yet Trump â€śmade it sound â€” dangerously â€” like treason,â€ť writes The New Yorkerâ€™s Amy Davidson Sorkin.
â€śNow more than ever,â€ť Bill Kristol tweeted, â€śRepublicans in Congress, and others in leadership roles, should step upâ€ť to protect Mueller.
Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, the companyâ€™s C.E.O., will testify before Congress today about Facebookâ€™s impact on the 2016 election. But what he says matters less than what Congress does, writes Zeynep Tufekci in The Times: â€śWe already know most everything we need for legislators to pass laws that would protect us from what Facebook has unleashed.â€ť
The full Opinion report from The Times follows.