Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their investigation into the Trump Organization’s role in hush money payments made to women who alleged affairs with President Donald Trump and have been ordered by a judge to release additional information connected to their related probe of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, according to court documents filed today.
On Friday the Manhattan US Attorney’s office had approached the end of its investigation of the Trump Organization and wasn’t poised to charge any executives involved in the company’s effort to reimburse Cohen for money he paid to silence one of the women. That payment constituted an illegal campaign contribution, according to prosecutors. Trump has denied the affair allegations.
“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 ordered a copy of the government’s July status report and copies of search warrant materials from the Cohen case to be filed publicly with very limited redactions by Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.
The conclusion of federal prosecutors’ investigation of the Trump company’s role in the Cohen matter marks a significant victory for the President’s family business, although it likely doesn’t come as a complete surprise. There had been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney’s office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, CNN reported Friday.
An attorney for the company declined to comment.
In April 2018, the FBI executed searches of Cohen’s home, hotel room, safe deposit box, cell phones and email accounts. Portions of the search warrant material were made public earlier this year after the judge ordered them revealed in response to a request by media companies. But the judge allowed prosecutors to redact significant parts of the material because they related to the government’s “ongoing investigation.”
The Trump Organization investigation was launched out of the Cohen case, in which he pleaded guilty to eight counts, including two counts of campaign-finance violations for orchestrating or making payments during the 2016 election to two women — adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal — who alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence.
After Cohen made the $130,000 payment to Daniels, he was reimbursed, prosecutors said in court filings, by the Trump Organization. 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.
The judge today said he would allow the government to keep the redaction of an uncharged third party (“Individual-1” – aka Donald Trump) when it files its status report and would permit the search warrant materials to be filed with redactions of the names of law-enforcement investigators and people who did business with Cohen in connection to taxi medallions he owned.
Was Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, behind this? I suspect not. This is the SDNY — known for its independence. If Barr had a hand in closing the case, it’ll leak out before the day is over.
( The DOJ has been quite forthcoming about the fact that it was Barr who decided against charges in the Eric Garner case. It should be equally transparent about who made the decision to end SDNY’s campaign finance case with no further charges. )
Or maybe it means the DOJ Guidelines that it cannot indict a sitting President apply here, too.
In any event, because there will be few redactions, we might see some stuff: