Sunday, 25 August, 2019

Michael Cohen search warrant documents released

Michael Cohen leaves federal court after his December sentencing in New York Michael Cohen leaves federal court after his December sentencing in New York
Patty Aguilar | 18 July, 2019, 23:51

A judge said Wednesday that federal prosecutors in NY have ended their campaign-finance investigation into hush-money payments arranged by President Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ordered the documents revealed after prosecutors said they had finished their review of the payments that were aimed at preventing the women from revealing their claims of sexual affairs with Trump.

Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty in 2018 to directing payments of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal to avert a scandal shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Donald Trump and his press secretary were directly involved in discussions that led to an illegal hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election campaign, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hicks had denied knowing about the payments until after the fact.

Several former federal prosecutors said Wednesday that Trump's team does have reason to celebrate.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow insisted in a statement Wednesday ahead of the document release that the closing of the Cohen probe exonerates the president. Trump joined the call, which lasted over four minutes. Calls between the Trump campaign, AMI and Cohen continued through the evening.

On October 17, 2016, Cohen was involved in calls and texts as he feared the attempted settlement agreement might fall apart, according to the warrant application. "Michael - if we are ever going to close this deal - in my opinion, it needs to be today". "Are you aware?" The pair quickly got on the phone. The documents show Cohen spoke with Trump on the phone at least twice amid a flurry of calls the Federal Bureau of Investigation believes were used to arrange them.

The documents then describe a string of calls over the next hour that Cohen made to Hicks, Pecker, Howard and again Trump. Trump took part in some of the calls, the documents showed. Cohen was repaid with checks signed by Trump and his eldest son, Donald Jr.

Prosecutors had previously asked the records remain sealed because they were still probing the payments.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan declined to comment.

In November 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to separate charges brought by the office of former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who was investigating contacts between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russian Federation.

The FBI told the judge that executives at American Media Inc. - the parent company for National Enquirer - were in contact with Cohen as the scramble to pay off Daniels for her silence began.

The closure of the case is the strongest suggestion yet that prosecutors decided not to bring criminal charges against anyone besides Cohen in the scheme to protect Trump's reputation during the 2016 presidential campaign.

However, Nick Akerman, a former SDNY prosecutor, said the judge's disclosure about the hush money probe's end doesn't mean all the matters related to Cohen are also finished. Hicks, who is now a senior executive at Rupert Murdoch's Fox Corporation, has denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors must publicly release the materials by 11 a.m. Thursday, Judge Pauley wrote.

Trump then repaid Cohen with a series of checks drawn from accounts he controlled or which were controlled by his business; Cohen revealed copies of some of the checks to Congress in March.

"The Southern District of NY was disproportionate in the sentence it asked for and appears to have targeted just Michael Cohen for reasons that I can't understand", Davis told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this year.

After Access Hollywood video was released, Cohen called Pecker, Pecker associate Dylan Howard, Trump, Daniels' then-lawyer Keith Davidson, Trump, and former Trump campaign press sec Hope Hicks.

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