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Judge: Michael Cohen campaign finance probe over

Michael Cohen leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan

Michael Cohen leaves a federal courthouse in Manhattan in 2018. Credit: Charles Eckert

Manhattan federal prosecutors have closed their investigation into hush money payments by President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, that violated campaign finance laws, according to a decision issued Tuesday by the judge overseeing Cohen’s case.

Manhattan U.S. District Judge William Pauley, who sentenced Cohen to 3 years in prison, disclosed the end of the probe in a ruling granting a request by media organizations, including Newsday, to unseal warrants and affidavits from a search of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room last year.

Although Cohen pleaded guilty, the probe fueled media speculation that the case could lead to charges against others involved in payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model, including key members of the Trump Organization and Trump himself.

“The Government now represents that it has concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations,” Pauley said in his ruling.

Pauley said the names of most third parties involved in the campaign finance case that are mentioned in the search warrant materials are already public, and don’t need to be kept secret, now that it is no longer an ongoing investigation.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley said. “Now that the government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials.”

The judge said the warrant materials will be made available on Thursday, but said names of individuals involved in another part of the Cohen investigation — his ownership of taxi medallions — could still be kept secret.

Cohen pleaded guilty to making payments to Daniels and arranging for the National Enquirer to make payments to model Karen McDougal to keep them silent about alleged affairs with Trump.

He said the $280,000 in payments were directed by Trump and designed to help his political campaign. Charging Trump would require evidence that the payments were campaign-related, instead of personal, and that he knew they were in violation of campaign finance law.

Cohen, in his guilty plea, also said that the Trump Organization, where he had worked as an executive, reimbursed him for the Daniels payments as “legal services.” Prosecutors previously announced that the Enquirer’s parent company was cooperating as part of an immunity deal.  

In addition to the campaign finance crimes, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, lying to get bank loans and lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings relating to a proposed real estate project in Moscow. Cohen is  in the federal prison in Otisville, New York.

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