Feds’ probe into Trump hush money payments is over, judge says

Source: Politico | July 17, 2019 | Darren Samuelsohn

A federal probe into hush money payments made to protect Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign has concluded, according to a judge’s order released Wednesday.

At issue is an investigation led by the Southern District of New York connected to Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Trump who is serving a three-year prison term in part for breaking campaign finance law. Trump himself was implicated in Cohen’s crimes, which involved hush money payments to women that federal prosecutors have said were designed to sway the presidential election.

Cohen cooperated with federal prosecutors as part of his plea deal with the government, but their wider effort is now over, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley wrote in a three-page order.

“The Government now represents that it has concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations,” Pauley wrote.

The judge, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, made the disclosure in a ruling on a related matter dealing with the release of sealed information contained in already-public search warrants tied to the Cohen case. Pauley rejected the government’s request to keep some of the search warrant materials in the Cohen case sealed and instead ordered it publicly released by 11 a.m. Thursday.

Pauley also said the government must publicly release a status report it filed earlier this week under seal that acknowledges the end of the wider Trump Organization campaign finance probe.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley added. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials. Indeed, the common law right of access—a right so enshrined in our identity that it ‘predate even the Constitution itself’—derives from the public’s right to “learn of, monitor, and respond to the actions of their representatives and representative institutions.”

It’s unclear who exactly has been under scrutiny in connection with the SDNY campaign finance probe, though Cohen testified to a House committee in February that he had maintained “constant contact” with New York-based federal prosecutors about several ongoing investigations, including probes into Trump.

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