Read the Docs: Mueller Began Investigating Michael Cohen Months After Trump Took Office

Michael Cohen. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM



Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia applied for and were granted a trio of search warrants for Michael Cohen’s email accounts just months after President Donald Trump was sworn in, new documents released by federal prosecutors show.

The revelation that Cohen was a target of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III’s office in July 2017 was one of the more illuminating details in the documents the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York was ordered to release Tuesday.

The eight document sets contain search warrant applications and supporting information for the April 2018 raid on Cohen’s places of business and home by federal agents. A coalition of news organizations petitioned U.S. District Judge William Pauley III of the Southern District to have the information released following Cohen’s guilty plea in November.

One of the conditions prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman’s office sought and were granted was the ability to redact sensitive sections of the documents. Some of those redactions would be privacy protections for both Cohen and others named but not prosecuted. Other redactions were due to the ongoing nature of investigations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The redactions in the documents released Tuesday earned Pauley’s approval ahead of time.

One particular set of redactions drew particular interest from observers. Prosecutors, with Pauley’s blessing, blocked out entire pages containing the underlying reasoning for the government’s pursuit of campaign finance violations against Cohen. In the 269-page April 8 search warrant application, for example, the entire 19-plus page section under “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme” is redacted.

Cohen and prosecutors would go on to indicate, through court documents and public statements, that both Cohen was directed by Trump to make illegal hush-money payments to two separate women claiming to have had extramarital affairs with the president. This quickly sparked speculation that the office’s shielding of the information was tied to prosecutors’ comments about ongoing investigations.

However, former prosecutors warned that this could lead to false assumptions about the office’s plans, especially as they relate to specific charges coming any time soon.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.


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