Judge Says Trump Campaign-Finance Probe Tied to Cohen Is Over

Chris Dolmetsch and Christian Berthelsen

(Bloomberg) -- Prosecutors concluded their investigation into whether anyone at Donald Trump’s company worked with his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to alleged mistresses, ending a potential legal threat to the president’s business and executives close to him.

Prosecutors in Manhattan notified U.S. District Judge William Pauley in a filing Monday that the probe was over, according to an order issued by the judge Wednesday. Pauley said investigative materials related to the case must be made public, although he allowed the identity of an “uncharged third party” to remain under wraps. The unsealing of the evidence suggests there will be no further charges.

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

Lanny Davis, a lawyer for Cohen, questioned why prosecutors closed the investigation. Why is Cohen "the only member of the Trump company to be prosecuted and imprisoned?" he said in a statement. “Especially since prosecutors found that virtually all of Michael’s admitted crimes were done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald Trump?”

Read More: Trump Executives Are Said to Face Campaign-Finance Probe by U.S.

Cohen pleaded guilty in August to campaign-finance violations and is serving a three-year sentence at a prison camp in Otisville, New York. Bloomberg reported in September that prosecutors were continuing their investigation into whether other executives at the Trump Organization had helped facilitate the payments.

Prosecutors said two Trump company executives had approved improper payments to Cohen. Investigators continued to scrutinize those people and others who may have been aware of the activities, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The government said the purpose of the payments was to ensure that the recipients didn’t disclose “alleged affairs with the candidate.” In addition to a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, Cohen admitted to making an illegal contribution of $150,000, the same amount former Playmate Karen McDougal got from the National Enquirer’s publisher to buy and suppress her story about an alleged affair. Trump has denied affairs with the women.

Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, provided narrow cooperation to authorities about Cohen’s activities, under a grant of limited immunity, and it wasn’t clear whether he was a focus of the extended inquiry. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the company, declined to comment.

Read More: Cohen Fires New Shot at Trump With Suit for Millions in Fees

Cohen admitted paying off a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, saying in a court hearing that he did it at the direction of the candidate himself and that Trump’s company then repaid him. Because the payments benefited the campaign by keeping the accusations secret but weren’t publicly disclosed, they violated U.S. law. According to court papers, the reimbursements were classified as “legal expenses” and not as payments related to the campaign.

Pauley had granted a request by news organizations to unseal some records related to the FBI’s April 9, 2018, searches of Cohen’s home, hotel room, office, safe deposit box, cell phones and electronic communications. The government told the judge 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 “weighty public ramifications” of the conduct require the materials be disclosed, he added.

Prosecutors were ordered to file the materials on the public docket by 11 a.m. Thursday in New York, although they were allowed to black out the names of investigators and references to individuals who allegedly engaged in or contemplated business with Cohen related to taxi medallions.

(Adds statement from lawyer for Cohen.)

--With assistance from Erik Larson and Shahien Nasiripour.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in Federal Court in Manhattan at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net;Christian Berthelsen in New York at cberthelsen1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey

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