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A Law Trump Signed Off on Was Instrumental in the Warrants that Got His Lawyer Busted


Another takeaway that’s bubbled to the surface in the aftermath of Tuesday’s unsealing of the Michael Cohen search warrant documents is that a law President Donald Trump signed in March 2018 was used by the feds to get a warrant approved. The warrant would get Google to hand over Cohen’s records.

The CLOUD Act, as CNN reported, made it easier for investigators to get their hands on records from U.S. companies overseas.

Here’s what Congress says it found as a result of the CLOUD Act:

(1) Timely access to electronic data held by communications-service providers is an essential component of government efforts to protect public safety and combat serious crime, including terrorism.

(2) Such efforts by the United States Government are being impeded by the inability to access data stored outside the United States that is in the custody, control, or possession of communications-service providers that are subject to jurisdiction of the United States.

(3) Foreign governments also increasingly seek access to electronic data held by communications-service providers in the United States for the purpose of combating serious crime.

(4) Communications-service providers face potential conflicting legal obligations when a foreign government orders production of electronic data that United States law may prohibit providers from disclosing.

(5) Foreign law may create similarly conflicting legal obligations when chapter 121 of title 18, United States Code (commonly known as the “Stored Communications Act”), requires disclosure of electronic data that foreign law prohibits communications-service providers from disclosing.

(6) International agreements provide a mechanism for resolving these potential conflicting legal obligations where the United States and the relevant foreign government share a common commitment to the rule of law and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.

In any event, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) were able to use this act to get Google to hand over documents related to Cohen’s Gmail account in February 2018. Google previously “declined to produce data that it stored on computer servers located outside of the United States.”

According to CNN, the CLOUD Act provision was “tucked into the $1.3 trillion spending bill Trump signed to avoid a federal government shutdown.” It enabled prosecutors in this case to successfully get a search warrant in April 2018 because  “providers are required to disclose data even if it is stored abroad.”

Now-retired Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) praised the new law.

“The bill sets forth strict privacy, human rights, and rule of law standards that countries that enter into such agreements must meet,” he wrote. “It also contains provisions to ensure that consumers are protected by their nation’s own laws.”

“The CLOUD Act is the kind of reform we can all agree on, and it’s a reform that’s long overdue. We cannot wait any longer for our laws to catch up with our technology,” he added.

Earlier Tuesday, we learned that Michael Cohen was investigated by the FBI as early as July 2017. There were also 19 redacted pages under the heading “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme.” This led some to suspect that additional indictments could come out of SDNY down the road. You can read and find all in one place the numerous search warrant documents released on Tuesday.

[Image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.