Judge orders partial release of documents from Michael Cohen raid

Judge orders partial release of documents from Michael Cohen raid
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A federal judge in New York on Thursday ordered the partial release of materials related to the FBI raid on properties belonging to Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBill Kristol resurfaces video of Pence calling Obama executive action on immigration a 'profound mistake' ACLU says planned national emergency declaration is 'clear abuse of presidential power' O'Rourke says he'd 'absolutely' take down border wall near El Paso if he could MORE’s former personal attorney.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley III partially granted a request by numerous media organizations to release search warrants and other materials justifying the raid on Cohen’s home, hotel room and office last April. The judge ruled that it is in the public interest for the files be released, with appropriate redactions to protect ongoing investigations and FBI methods and procedures. 

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“The public interest in the underlying subject matter of the Materials—which implicates the integrity of the 2016 presidential election—is substantial,” Pauley wrote in a 30-page opinion. 

The New York Times, Associated Press and other news organizations had petitioned for the release of copies of search warrants, warrant applications and supporting affidavits and riders in connection with the searches.

The government, meanwhile, opposed the effort, saying it would jeopardize an ongoing investigation and prejudice privacy rights of uncharged third parties. 

Pauley on Thursday ruled that releasing the materials with certain redactions "strikes an appropriate balance between the strong presumption of public access to search warrant materials and the countervailing interests identified by the Government.” 

“In particular, the Government represents that aspects of its investigation remain ongoing, including those pertaining to or arising from Cohen’s campaign finance crimes,” Pauley wrote. 

The judge ordered prosecutors to submit a sealed copy of materials with proposed redactions by Feb. 28. 

The judge also ordered the government to submit a status report under seal by May 15 identifying any individuals or entities subject to “ongoing investigations” and explaining the need for certain materials to remain redacted. 

Cohen pleaded guilty last August to eight federal offenses, including campaign finance charges stemming from a scheme to pay off women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in order to prevent negative information from surfacing during the 2016 election campaign. Cohen has implicated Trump in the effort, while the president has denied any wrongdoing.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are continuing to probe the campaign finance violations.

Cohen separately pleaded guilty last November to making false statements to Congress about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow. Cohen agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

On Thursday, Pauley directed the government to redact details about the campaign finance charges in the files related to the Cohen raid.

“At this stage, wholesale disclosure of the Materials would reveal the scope and direction of the Government’s ongoing investigation. It would also unveil subjects of the investigation and the potential conduct under scrutiny, the full volume and nature of the evidence gathered thus far, and the sources of information provided to the Government,” Pauley wrote.

The judge also allowed the government to redact the names of special agents who signed search warrant applications and authored supporting affidavits related to the raids, as well as details that describe law enforcement techniques and procedures. 

Last December, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for his crimes and is expected to report to prison next month. In the meantime, he is expected to appear before at least two congressional panels in connection with their investigations into Russian election interference. 

Cohen’s representatives are also negotiating with the House Oversight and Reform Committee over his appearance before the panel. Cohen initially agreed to testify publicly before the committee but has since postponed his testimony, citing what he calls threats from the president and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani.