Prosecutors end inquiry into 'hush money' payments by ex-Trump attorney

Elias Hubbard
July 17, 2019

Federal prosecutors have told a judge in NY they have concluded their investigation into campaign finance crimes committed by President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

Federal prosecutors in NY have quietly closed the book on their investigation into any role the Trump Organization - the umbrella organization for President Donald Trump's hundreds of private businesses - played in the payments of hush money to a porn star and a Playboy Playmate. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance", US District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in his decision.

"Now that the Government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials", Pauley wrote.

Pauley ordered that the previously-sealed documents, which are to be filed on Thursday, be "unredacted in their entirety" with the exception of names of investigators and some individuals.

In previous court filings, federal prosecutors in NY appeared to implicate Trump directly, saying that he directed Cohen to make the hush money payments.

The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment and wouldn't answer questions about whether the completion of the investigation meant that no one else would be charged.

A lawyer for Trump, Jay Sekulow, said: "We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed". The government told the judge earlier this month that it had "concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the materials" related to Cohen's campaign-finance violations, Pauley said.

The request for release came as a group of media organizations moved to unseal copies of search warrants and applications, affidavits, and other supporting information relating to the April 2018 Federal Bureau of Investigation raids on Cohen's apartment, hotel room, and office.

The records to be unsealed include search warrant applications that federal prosecutors made to judges in NY when they sought permission to raid Cohen's home and office. It remains unclear what avenues prosecutors may be continuing to follow in this investigation or others related to the president and his businesses.

Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 presidential election and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer to pay Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence.

The conclusion of the investigation prompted the judge in the case to order prosecutors to release unredacted documents related to the raid of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen's home in April 2018, including copies of the warrant, warrant applications and supporting affidavits. The company's executives authorized payments to him totaling $420,000, in an effort to cover his original payment, tax liabilities and reward him with a bonus, according to prosecutors, and they falsely recorded those payments as legal expenses in their books.

The criminal inquiry centered on whether those payments, like the hush money Cohen gave to Daniels, violated campaign-finance law.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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