Judge rules to unseal redacted materials in Michael Cohen case

Drew Angerer  Getty Images FILE

Drew Angerer Getty Images FILE

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. A lawyer for Cohen could not immediately be reached.

A judge on Wednesday ordered the release of documents relating to hush-money payments by Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to two women who said they had sexual encounters with the president and disclosed that federal prosecutors had ended their investigation of the matter. 'Now that the Government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials'. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani stated that Trump had personally reimbursed Cohen in 2017, insisting no campaign money was involved.

Trump has denied the accusations of extramarital affairs and hush money payments, and has said his campaign didn't violate any campaign finance laws.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including campaign finance violations, lying to Congress and tax evasion.

The office of the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, which prosecuted Cohen, declined to comment.

"A motion to unseal documents in a high-profile case such as this one strongly suggests that the matter has concluded", said Gene Rossi, a former assistant US attorney from Virginia.

However, the Justice Department has held that sitting presidents cannot be charged in the federal criminal justice system and instead can only be punished for misdeeds by Congress through the impeachment process.

Michael Cohen, who formerly worked as Trump's personal attorney, pleaded guilty past year to violating federal campaign finance laws by funneling hush money in an effort to influence the outcome of the election.

Pauley ordered that the government release documents from the investigation, including search warrant materials, with limited redactions.

Cohen admitted paying off a woman who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, saying in a court hearing that he did it at the direction of the candidate himself and that Trump's company then repaid him.

The request for release came as a group of media organizations moved to unseal copies of search warrants and applications, affidavits, and other supporting information relating to the April 2018 Federal Bureau of Investigation raids on Cohen's apartment, hotel room, and office. The government told the judge earlier this month that it had "concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continued sealing of the portions of the materials" related to Cohen's campaign-finance violations, Pauley said. In them, they outlined some of the evidence they had gathered about his alleged crimes. The end of the investigation likely means no additional charges will be filed against anyone, including the president.

News organizations in the legal action to unseal the documents included the AP, the New York Times and the parent companies of ABC and CBS News, CNN, the Daily News, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday and the New York Post.

The judge ordered the materials to be "unredacted in their entirety, except that the names of law enforcement investigators, references to individuals who purportedly engaged in business transactions or contemplated business transactions with Cohen relating to taxi medallions, and personal information referenced in this Court's March 18, 2019 Order".