Zachary Roth

Zachary Roth is a former national reporter for MSNBC and the author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy (Crown, 2016). He has written for The Atlantic, The New Republic, Slate, Politico, and The Daily Beast, among others, and is the founder of The Daily Democracy.

Articles by Zachary

Yesterday we reported that the law firm representing Michael Cohen in both the Russia investigation and the federal probe into Cohen’s own finances has received payments from the Trump campaign. That could complicate any efforts by prosecutors to get Cohen to cooperate against the president.

And today comes additional evidence that the possibility of Cohen flipping is at the forefront of Trump’s mind. A lawyer who has worked for Trump in the past tells the Wall Street Journal that when the president called him for advice last week, he cautioned that Trump shouldn’t count on Cohen staying strong if he’s charged with serious crimes.

“Michael will never stand up” for you, the lawyer, Jay Goldberg, says he told Trump.

And let’s take a step back: All this talk about Cohen potentially flipping on Trump assumes up front that the president has done things that could put him in severe legal jeopardy. At this point, no one seems to be making much effort to deny that.

This is one of those facts that’s been sort of hiding in plain sight: The law firm representing Michael Cohen in the federal probe into his financial dealings has been paid recently by Trump’s campaign.

To be clear, those payments may have been for representing Cohen in the Russia investigation, not in the financial probe. Or, conceivably, for something totally different, though that seems unlikely.

Still, these are the lawyers who were fighting this week to shield Trump-Cohen communications from prosecutors. Which raises questions about whose interests are being represented.

Allegra Kirkland explains why it matters.

The judge in the Michael Cohen case has denied Cohen’s bid to have the government blocked from going through the materials they seized last week from his offices and hotel room. But she outlined a process where both sides will go though the documents for privileged material. The government can’t look at the substance of the materials, beyond the narrow search. The judge did not rule out appointing a special master to look through the materials, but said she’d decide at a future hearing.

The upshot: This slows things down somewhat, but, at least for now, it doesn’t derail the government’s investigation. We’ll have more details up shortly. 

Update: And here they are.

…which means it’s a busy day for TPM’s Allegra Kirkland, who’s covering the federal court hearings in the case from Lower Manhattan.

This morning, as Allegra reported, Cohen’s lawyers filed a letter to the judge, who had asked them to list Cohen’s legal clients and say which materials seized by the FBI last week are subject to attorney-client privilege, in their view.

Two interesting points on the letter: First, Cohen’s lawyers claimed that one reason the materials should be reviewed by a special master, and not first by prosecutors, is the atmosphere of “toxic partisan politics” which has raised questions about the Department of Justice’s “impartiality.” In other words, they’re using Trump’s campaign to undermine DOJ and the FBI in their effort to shield Cohen from a federal investigation into his business affairs.

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Michael Cohen made a trip to Prague in the summer of 2016, McClatchy reports, citing two sources with familiar with the matter.

The report represents a potentially significant development in Mueller’s Russia investigation. If the meeting occurred, it could undercut President Trump’s repeated claim that there was “no collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

The Steele dossier, which is unverified, contained claims that Cohen, Trump’s long-time fixer, met secretly with Russian intelligence agents in Prague in 2016 to strategize about the campaign. Congressional investigators have said they’ve looked into the issue.

Cohen has denied traveling to Prague. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to McClatchy’s requests for comment.

Mueller’s team has evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, which he could have done without a passport, according to McClatchy’s sources.

The report comes days after the FBI raided Cohen’s offices and hotel room. Federal prosecutors revealed Friday that Cohen has been under grand jury investigation for months related to his personal business dealings.

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Sometimes in journalism, like in child-rearing, it takes a village.

In the wake of the Parkland school shooting, an investigative news outlet called the Florida Bulldog reported on Kalashnikov USA, a shady gunmaker with ties to Russia. The company, it seemed, had found a way to produce Kalashnikov-branded AK-47s in the U.S. without running afoul of U.S. sanctions. And in 2015 it had inked a deal with Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to open a factory a few miles from Parkland in exchange for tax breaks. (The tax deal fell through when the company failed to create enough jobs, but the gunmaker did move to Broward County.)

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It’s easy to gloss over President Trump’s latest attack on Robert Mueller’s investigation. After all, this is hardly the first time he’s gone after the special counsel. But it’s important that we don’t.

Every time Trump questions the integrity of Mueller’s probe, he’s dangerously undermining the rule of law — a crucial pillar of democracy. And Monday’s comments — which came in response to news that the FBI had raided the offices of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen — were particularly chilling in how closely they echoed the tactics of quasi-authoritarian leaders looking to weaken independent sources of authority. That sounds alarmist, but it’s increasingly hard to overlook.

Here are some of the things from Monday’s outburst worth dwelling on.

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This is pretty good: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has been trying to block two state legislative special elections that he’s afraid the GOP might lose. Walker says giving people full representation is a waste of money. He was so determined not to hold the elections that he was even willing to change state law to make it easier.

Now, Allegra Kirkland reports, the whole plan seems to have imploded, after a Democratic group led by Eric Holder sued. And Walker is lashing out.

It looks like Scott Walker doesn’t have a ton of confidence in the GOP’s ability to win elections in the Trump era.

On Thursday a court ruled that Walker has to hold two special elections, which he was trying to avoid doing. Now, Allegra Kirkland reports, Walker is working with the Republican state legislature to change state law governing special elections, rendering the court ruling moot. In other words, he’s changing the law to avoid holding elections he’s afraid the GOP might lose.

Democrats are calling the move a “clear attack on democracy.” Hard to argue with that.