The revelation came in a three-page decision from Judge William H. Pauley, ordering prosecutors to file publicly more search warrant applications, affidavits and other materials from the case.
He wrote that the government disclosed in a secret filing Monday that it had “concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the Materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violations.” He rejected their request to file the materials with redactions to protect “third-party privacy interests,” because, by his telling, the case is over and the public deserves to see everything.
“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.”
Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty last year to campaign finance violations and implicated Trump in the wrongdoing, acknowledging as part of an agreement with prosecutors that he paid off two women to keep their stories of alleged affairs with Trump from becoming public before Election Day, in coordination with Trump. He was ultimately sentenced to three years in federal prison for that and other crimes. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Cohen’s admission implicated unidentified Trump Organization executives, though they were never accused of any crimes. According to court documents, Cohen sought reimbursement for the payments and they agreed to give him $420,000, for which he sent monthly invoices. Court records say the company accounted for the payments as “legal expenses,” though the invoices Cohen produced were not tied to any legal services he had provided.
The close of the campaign finance investigation probably means those executives are out of federal prosecutors’ crosshairs — at least for that case — though more details about them might emerge in the materials the judge has ordered unsealed.
Jay Sekulow, Trump’s current attorney, said: “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.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to a host of other wrongdoing, including tax evasion, lying to Congress about the pursuit of a Trump Tower project in Moscow and making a false statement to a bank. He has talked extensively with federal prosecutors, including special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, and his case appears to have played a role in sparking a separate investigation of fundraising and spending by Trump’s inaugural committee.
The judge’s order did not address that case or other potential offshoots that were generated by the investigation of campaign finance violations involving Cohen. The closure of one case would not end other probes it spawned, though charging Trump would be impossible because of a Justice Department legal opinion that prevents the indictment of a sitting president.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
Lanny J. Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said in a statement: “Case closed? Why is Michael Cohen — after all his voluntary cooperation and testimony that Mr. 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? 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?”
Pauley’s decision came as part of an ongoing legal battle media organizations have waged to unseal and make public materials from the investigation of Cohen. The judge ordered prosecutors to file the materials on the public docket at 11 a.m. Thursday.
Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.