WASHINGTON — In 2011, drug enforcement agents tailing a Colombian narcotrafficker in Miami got more than they bargained for. They watched the man hand $108,000 to a federal immigration officer.
Later, at the federal agent's corruption trial, his lawyer, Marty Raskin, had a different explanation for the cash.
He said the drug trafficker gave it to the agent for safekeeping overnight because he was "afraid to hold the money in his hotel room."
Raskin won the case. The agent walked, acquitted by a federal jury.
Raskin, 71, and his wife, Jane Raskin, 62, are now directing their legal firepower in the service of a different client: Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.
The Raskins, based in Miami, are the newest members of the Trump legal team. They came on board last week, around the same time as Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor.
While Guiliani's appointment drew significant attention, the Raskins hiring was somewhat overlooked. But unlike the 73-year-old Giuliani, who rarely appears in court these days, the Florida couple has been laboring for years in the legal trenches, establishing a long track record of successfully defending clients in white-collar federal criminal prosecutions.
"Jane and Marty are superb lawyers with really deep experience in federal criminal cases," said Ryan Stumphauzer, a former federal prosecutor who practices white collar criminal defense in Miami.
Marty Raskin, Stumphauzer said, is "one of these rare guys who is both incredibly effective but also very well liked and trusted. His word and his credibility mean something. He's a finesse player."
Michael "Pat" Sullivan, who retired last year after 45 years with the Miami U.S. Attorney's Office, told NBC News the Raskins "just bring very good judgment on how to handle whatever they are facing. They don't want drama, they don't want turmoil and they'll try to tamp that down."
They are also likeable and charming people, the retired prosecutor said — friendly adversaries.
Stumphauzer added that he suspected that the hiring signaled that some part of the Mueller investigation is now focusing on South Florida.
What exactly Mueller is examining in the Sunshine State is known only to him and his team, but likely targets of scrutiny include a transaction in which a Russian oligarch purchased Trump's Palm Beach mansion in 2008 for $95 million — more than double what Trump paid for it in 2004.
There has also been considerable news media attention to the purchase by Russians of condos in Trump's Sunny Isles development north of Miami Beach, which has been dubbed "Little Moscow" by locals.
The Raskins declined to comment for this story. Lawyers in South Florida have been scratching their heads about how they came into Trump's orbit.
"I'm not aware of an obvious Trump connection, but Trump's down here a lot in South Florida," said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney in Miami who said the Raskins have an excellent reputation.
One White House official with direct knowledge said that Ty Cobb, who is coordinating the White House legal response to the Robert Mueller investigation, brought the Raskins in.
They were then interviewed by Jay Sekulow, another member of Trump's legal team, the official said. Lastly, he said, they spent time alone with the president.
If Trump examined their record of tangling with the Justice Department, he may have been impressed.
The 2014 acquittal of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Juan F. Martinez, was seen as a stunning victory for the defense.
"The evidence in that case was overwhelming," Stumphauzer said. "The fact that he got that guy off to me is nothing short of amazing."
Another high-profile client was SabreTech Corp., an aviation contractor accused of illegally transporting hazardous oxygen generators on the ValuJet flight that crashed in the Everglades in 1996. The canisters ignited a fire that caused the plane to crash, killing 110 people.
The company was acquitted on most of the federal charges, and all but one conviction was reversed on appeal. The state criminal case ended in a plea agreement resulting in the dismissal of all 220 counts of homicide. A federal judge imposed an $11 million penalty and the state plea agreement called for a $500,000 fine. The company went out of business.
While those cases made headlines, much of the work the Raskins have done was behind the scenes, quietly negotiating favorable dispositions for clients who found themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors.
On their website, they describe a series of cases in which they won good outcomes for defendants facing serious legal jeopardy.
"Over the years, Raskin & Raskin's lawyers have represented numerous public officials in federal and state criminal investigations and prosecutions, as well as in congressional investigations and proceedings," the website says.
"Raskin & Raskin's clients have included judges, mayors, city councilmen, high-ranking public and political figures, federal and state law enforcement authorities and professional athletes. The majority of these investigations ended with no charges being filed and, in many cases, with the investigations never becoming public."
The firm has also defended corporations and their officers. They boast of a telecom CEO accused of misleading investors — under scrutiny by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a federal grand jury.
"The SEC enforcement action was closed with no action having been taken, the grand jury investigation produced no charges against the client."
Both Raskins have significant prosecutorial experience. Marty Raskin spent time as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey and later led the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami during the 1980s.
Jane Raskin served as a federal prosecutor in Boston and as counsel to the assistant attorney general of the criminal division in Washington.
The Raskins met at an American Bar Association Conference in New Orleans, where Jane Raskin was delivering a lecture on white-collar crime, according to their web site. They married in 1990.
Among the cases they highlight, one in particular stands out as having particular relevance to Trump's current legal plight.
It involved a search warrant of attorney-client documents — exactly the issue Trump is facing with the raid of his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen.
"When FBI agents arrived at a corporate client's business premises to execute a search warrant for documents, Raskin & Raskin's attorneys immediately responded," the Raskin web site says. "When the FBI agents and the supervising Assistant U.S. Attorney ignored Raskin & Raskin's admonitions that many of the materials they wished to seize were covered by the attorney-client privilege, Raskin & Raskin filed an emergency motion for a protective order prohibiting the FBI from seizing and reviewing the privileged materials."
Within two hours, the firm "was in court litigating the motion. A protective order was entered before the sensitive documents left the client's premises, the documents were ordered to be placed in a locked room, and a special master was appointed to resolve any disputes."
That's not what happened in the raid of Michael Cohen's home and office. The FBI took the documents.
The only question now is whether the judge will appoint a special master to review which ones may be subject to lawyer-client privilege.
"Attorney-client privilege is dead!" Trump fumed on Twitter, adding: "A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!"
On their web site, the Raskins say that in the case of a search warrant, "an immediate response by counsel to a search in progress is often the difference between maintaining the status quo and surrendering to the government a distinct advantage."
Perhaps Trump is wondering whether he should have hired them sooner.