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Preet Bharara weighs in on report of Cohen wiretap

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Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday that an NBC News report that President Trump’s personal lawyer was wiretapped by federal investigators could “signify proof of an ongoing crime,” though he tempered his comments after the network issued a correction.

NBC News, citing a source with direct knowledge, initially reported that investigators had tapped the phone lines of Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen. The report said that at least one call between the White House and a phone line associated with Cohen was intercepted.

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Bharara, who served as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York before being fired by Trump last year, noted that wiretaps are difficult to obtain and “you don’t tap a President’s attorney lightly.”

“Wiretaps are difficult to get,” Bharara tweeted. “Applications require multiple layers of review, including by career lawyers in Washington, plus approval by a district court judge (not magistrate). Also they signify proof of an ongoing crime. And you don’t tap a President’s attorney lightly.”

Hours later, however, NBC News issued a correction, saying Cohen’s phones were being monitored by a “pen register,” not a wiretap. 

“A pen register is much easier to get and much less intrusive than a wiretap. No actual phone call content is listened to. Basically it’s a real-time log of calls,” Bharara wrote.

The NBC reporting Thursday comes as federal authorities continue to investigate Cohen’s business activities, a probe that has been going on for months.

After the raid on Cohen’s home and office last month, Bharara predicted there was a “high” likelihood that the Trump lawyer would be charged with a crime.

“So I predict, as we saw with Paul Manafort, that if they decided they had enough evidence to engage in a very aggressive, a very aggressive move, that the likelihood that Michael Cohen is going to be charged is high,” Bharara said in April. 

Bharara was fired by Trump last year when he refused to resign from his post as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Updated at 5:25 p.m. following NBC News’s correction

Tags Donald Trump FBI raid Michael Cohen Paul Manafort Paul Manafort Preet Bharara Preet Bharara President Trump US Attorney's Office Wiretapping
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