Politics

Feds end probe of hush money that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen directed to Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal

Key Points
  • Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their campaign finance investigation into President Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen, a judge reveals.
  • Judge William Pauley orders that materials related to the probe of Cohen and hush money payments should be unsealed — and denies a request by prosecutors to keep certain portions blacked out.
  • Those materials will be made public in U.S. District Court in Manhattan at 11 a.m. ET Thursday.
Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of President Donald Trump, departs the U.S. Capitol after testifying before a closed House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 28, 2019.
Joshua Roberts | Reuters

Federal prosecutors in New York have ended their campaign finance investigation into hush money payments arranged by President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen to two women who claim they had sex with Trump, a judge revealed Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley also ordered Wednesday that materials related to the probe of Cohen and those payments should be unsealed — and denied a request by prosecutors to keep certain portions blacked out.

Pauley ordered that related materials and a recent status report from the prosecutors, which are currently sealed from public view, be made public in U.S. District Court in Manhattan at 11 a.m. ET Thursday.

While prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York agreed that the "majority of the campaign finance portions of the Materials may be unsealed," they wanted some portions of the materials kept hidden, according to the judge.

But Pauley refused.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance," Pauley wrote.

"Now that the Government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials."

FBI agents raided Cohen's apartment, hotel room and office in April 2018, collecting troves of records and electronic devices. Some of those materials were made public with redacted portions in March 2019.

It was not clear if the move by prosecutors to end the campaign finance probe of Cohen meant that no other charges would be lodged in connection with the hush money payments.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Cohen, 52, is serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty last year to crimes that included facilitating the hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as other financial crimes, and lying to Congress.

He personally paid Daniels $130,000 on the eve of the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her agreement to keep quiet about her alleged tryst with Trump a decade earlier, on the heels of his wife Melania giving birth to their son.

Cohen also arranged for the publisher of the supermarket tabloid The National Enquirer to pay McDougal $150,000 in the months leading up to the election. McDougal claims she had an affair with Trump.

The president has denied having sex with either Daniels or McDougal.

The disgraced and now-disbarred lawyer Cohen has said he arranged both payments at the behest of Trump in order to avoid a public scandal that could harm his chances of winning the election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

VIDEO5:2705:27
Michael Cohen just testified before Congress. Here are the key moments

Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement Wednesday: "We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed. We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation."

"Another case is closed," Sekulow added.

Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, in a statement scoffed at the idea that his client well could be the only person proecuted in connection with the payoffs.

"Case closed? Why is Michael Cohen — after all his voluntary cooperation and testimony that [special counsel Robert]Mueller said was credible and went to 'core issues' and all the information and documents he voluntarily provided to prosecutors and to congress — the only member of the Trump company to be prosecuted and imprisoned?" Davis said.

"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? Why?"

"Others in Trump Org received immunity," Davis said on Twitter. "My view: Selective prosecution and disproportionate sentencing. But why?"

Adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, poses for pictures at the end of her striptease show in Gossip Gentleman club in Long Island, New York, February 23, 2018.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Prosecutors late last year revealed that they had signed a nonprosecution agreement with the Enquirer's then-publisher, American Media Inc., in exchange for the company's cooperation with their campaign finance violation probe.

Vanity Fair magazine reported last August that Trump friend David Pecker, the then-chairman of AMI, had personally received an immunity agreement from prosecutors, as had AMI's chief content officer, Dylan Howard.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York is still reportedly investigating spending by Trump's inaugural committee.

Read the judge's order in Cohen's case below:

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.