(Bloomberg) -- A judge said the public is entitled to learn more about the FBI search warrant served on Michael Cohen almost a year ago, just as President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer is about to go to prison.
Over objections from federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge William Pauley on Thursday granted a request by media organizations for access to documents related to the April 9 FBI search of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room, while agreeing with the government that some materials must remain secret to protect ongoing investigations.
"The public interest in the underlying subject matter of the materials -- which implicates the integrity of the 2016 presidential election -- is substantial," Pauley said. The judge gave the government until Feb. 28 to file the materials under seal, with proposed redactions for him to review. The judge said he’d then order the documents to be made public.
Disclosing the materials with certain portions redacted strikes the appropriate balance between public access and prosecutors’ desire for confidentiality to protect its ongoing investigations, Pauley said. The judge said the applications and affidavits for the search warrants "catalogue an assortment of uncharged individuals and detail their involvement in communications and transactions connected to the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pled guilty."
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"At this stage, wholesale disclosure of the materials would reveal the scope and direction of the government’s ongoing investigation," Pauley wrote. "It would also unveil subjects of the investigation and the potential conduct under scrutiny, the full volume and nature of the evidence gathered thus far, and the sources of information provided to the government."
Cohen didn’t take part in the dispute over access to the warrant materials. His spokesman, Lanny Davis, declined to comment on Thursday’s ruling.
According to Pauley, the sealed warrant materials identify people who dealt with Cohen in his taxi medallion business, banks to which he made misstatements and firms that paid him consulting fees.
Cohen pleaded guilty Aug. 21 to five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution and two federal campaign finance violations. The latter counts related to Cohen’s role in paying two women to keep quiet about their alleged sexual encounters with Trump, before he became president.
In November, Cohen pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to Congress about a plan for a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Pauley sentenced Cohen to three years. He’s set to report to prison next month, after his scheduled testimony before Congress at the end of February.
Pauley set May 15 for the government to identify, under seal, "the individuals or entities" whose identities prosecutors want to be kept secret.
The case is U.S. v. Cohen, 18-cr-00602, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Updates with details from ruling in seventh paragraph.)
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