Trove of Just-Released Documents Show Feds Eyed Cohen Long Before Raid
Federal authorities began investigating President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, just months after the president took office, made available to the media by court order on Tuesday.
The release of the trove of redacted documents was a victory for the nine news organizations who filed a legal action to unseal them: ABC, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, The New York Times, Newsday, and the Wall Street Journal.
All of the documents made public Tuesday relate to the search warrant for FBI raids on Cohen’s home and office in April 2018.
Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, supported their release, saying in a statement it would be in Cohen’s interest in “continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump organization to law enforcement and Congress.”
Prosecutors had opposed the request, saying disclosure of the documents “would jeopardize an ongoing investigation and prejudice the privacy rights of uncharged third parties.”
But U.S. District Judge William Pauley III, who sentenced Cohen to three years in prison in December for crimes including lying to Congress, said while the prosecutors had valid concerns, there was no reason to keep all the documents secret.
Last month Pauley ordered prosecutors to redact Cohen’s personal information and details in the warrant that refer to ongoing investigations and several third-parties who have cooperated with the inquiry.
But he authorized the release of details in the warrant that relate to Cohen’s tax evasion and false statements to financial institutions charges, along with Cohen’s conduct that did not result in criminal charges.
David McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times, told the Associated Press that he was hopeful Pauley would approve the release of additional materials in May after the government updates the judge on its investigation.
“The documents are important because they allow the public to see firsthand why the investigation was initiated and how it was conducted,” McCraw told the AP.
Keith Werhan, the Ashton Phelps Chair in Constitutional Law at Tulane Law School in New Orleans, said Judge Pauley’s ruling that the documents should be released “obviously seems to serve the public interest in transparency in a case such as this.
“There are legitimate law-enforcement interests, and perhaps privacy interests in play, but again, in a case such as this, I believe it is the function of courts to support media efforts to gain the release of as much information as possible,” Werhan said.
What Tuesday’s documents show is that Special Counsel Robert Mueller began investigating Cohen at least nine months before the FBI raid, looking into the attorney’s personal business dealings and whether he ever acted as an unregistered foreign agent.
The documents suggest Mueller’s investigators were scrutinizing Cohen’s taxi business, his dealings with lenders and consulting contracts he signed after the 2016 election.
Among those who hired Cohen at the time was an investment firm affiliated with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg.
In addition to the warrant to search Cohen’s home and office, the FBI was also given permission to search a hotel room used by the attorney and a safe deposit box. All told, investigators seized more than 4 million electronic and paper files, along with more than a dozen mobile devices and iPads, 20 external hard drives, flash drives and laptops.
Although Cohen initially cried foul over the raids, he ultimately pleaded guilty last summer to failing to report more than $4 million in income to the IRS, making false statements to financial institutions and campaign-finance violations stemming from the hush-money payments he arranged for porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
He was not charged with failing to register as a foreign agent.
Cohen is scheduled to report to prison in May. In February, he testified before Congress in open and closed hearings about his dealings with Trump over the past decade, calling his former client a con-man and expressing remorse for the deeds he carried out on Trump’s behalf.
“I have fixed things, but I am no longer your ‘fixer,’ Mr. Trump,” Cohen told the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
In The News
NEW YORK — Lawyers for more than a dozen other media outlets, including the New York Daily News, will ask a Manhattan judge to keep open a court proceeding against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Prosecutors and Weinstein’s lawyers contend that a scheduled Friday hearing should... Read More
A study from Global Strategy Group finds most Americans, regardless of their political leaning, believe corporations should weigh in on political and social issues, despite the fact some of their actions might inspire a temporary backlash. The key, explained Julie Hootkin, a partner at the public... Read More
The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that Miami, Florida with be the host city for the first Democratic presidential primary debate. The debate, which is being broadcast by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo on back-to-back nights, is being held on June 26 and 27. The debate lineups... Read More
Federal authorities began investigating President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, just months after the president took office, made available to the media by court order on Tuesday. The release of the trove of redacted documents was a victory for the nine news organizations who filed... Read More
The Democratic National Committee said Wednesday that it will not partner with Fox News for the upcoming presidential primary debates, citing a story in this week's New Yorker on the close ties between the channel and President Donald Trump. The article, by New Yorker correspondent Jane... Read More
MIAMI — A court hearing on whether to unseal sensitive documents involving the alleged sex trafficking of underage girls by Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein — and the possible involvement of his influential friends — will play out in a New York City courtroom next week.... Read More