Judge orders release of docs tied to Michael Cohen's hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels

Judge William Pauley III revealed that prosecutors had concluded the case and ordered them to file the materials by 11 a.m. Thursday.
Michael Cohen testifies before a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing
Michael Cohen testifies at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.Carlos Barria / Reuters file

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By Tom Winter and Rich Schapiro

A federal judge disclosed Wednesday that prosecutors had concluded their probe into Michael Cohen’s campaign finance crimes as he ordered the release of search warrants tied to the case.

Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, is serving a three-year prison sentence for a slew of crimes, including breaking campaign finance laws by hiding payments to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance," Judge William Pauley III said in court papers, denying the government's request for limited redactions. "Now that the government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials."

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Pauley ordered prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to release the materials by 11 a.m. Thursday.

Last August, Cohen admitted to making the illegal payments to the two women, identified as porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, at Trump's behest to silence them ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump has denied the affairs.

The New York probe has long been viewed as potentially perilous for Trump and his associates. The judge's disclosure is the clearest indication yet that federal investigators have concluded their investigation of possible campaign finance crimes involving Cohen and likely any of Trump's other business associates or family members.

“We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed," Jay Sekulow, Trump's personal attorney, said. "We have maintained from the outset that the president never engaged in any campaign finance violation."

The FBI raided Cohen's office and hotel suite April 9, 2018, seeking evidence of bank fraud and hush money payments to Daniels and McDougal. In addition to the emails, the investigators seized cellphones and at least 12 audio recordings, federal prosecutors said in court documents released last year.

Prosecutors released almost 900 pages of documents related to the case in March after several news organizations requested the unsealing of materials tied to the raids.

But those documents didn't shed light on how an investigation that started with suspected bank fraud led to a probe of possible campaign finance crimes related to the payouts to Daniels and McDougal. The roughly 19 pages of the search warrant that detail the hush money scheme were all redacted.

The judge's order calls for those pages — and the hundreds of others that were blacked out — to be released in full Thursday.