Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE began investigating Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenAndrew Cuomo and the death of shame Prosecutors considered charging Trump Organization CFO with perjury: report Michael Wolff and the art of monetizing gossip MORE nearly a year before the FBI raided the former Trump attorney’s properties in New York last April, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.
The heavily redacted documents, released by prosecutors in response to a court order, reveal that the FBI sought and obtained warrants to search Cohen’s electronic communications as far back as July 2017 and suspected President TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE’s former lawyer of potentially acting as an unregistered foreign agent and other crimes.
And the hundreds of pages of filings offer clues as to what investigators were eyeing as part of their probe into Cohen, including whether he had any improper contacts with foreign entities.
The documents include search warrants, warrant applications and supporting affidavits tied to raids on Cohen’s hotel room, home and office last April, as well as those underlying searches of Cohen’s email, cellphone location data and other electronic devices.
In total, prosecutors in Manhattan filed eight exhibits totaling 895 pages after a federal judge ordered their partial release earlier this year.
Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, campaign finance violations and other charges last August, is due to report to prison in May to serve a three-year sentence. In November, he also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump property in Moscow as part of a deal to cooperate with Mueller.
The exhibits shed new light on the length and scope of the investigation into the president’s former “fixer.” They show that FBI investigators sought and obtained warrants for Cohen’s email accounts a month after Mueller was appointed to investigate Russia's election interference and possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow, and nearly a year before the raid was actually executed.
Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis said in a statement ahead of the release of the documents that it “only furthers [Cohen’s] interest in continuing to cooperate and providing information and the truth about Donald Trump and the Trump organization to law enforcement and Congress.”
According to the first search and seizure warrant executed on one of Cohen’s Gmail accounts, the FBI in July 2017 suspected Cohen of making false statements to a financial institution, money laundering, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a federal law governing foreign lobbying. Cohen was never charged with money laundering or failing to register as a foreign agent.
The documents state that federal investigators attempted to gain access to Cohen’s email account with the Trump Organization, but had not been able to so. It’s unclear if they have since gained access to the account.
The documents have been redacted to obscure Cohen’s email address, phone numbers, apartment number and safety deposit box.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III ordered the release of the documents — with appropriate redactions — back in February after several news organizations petitioned for them to be made public.
“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 filed on Feb. 7.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to several federal charges since the raids, including campaign finance violations stemming from the hush money payments. He has separately pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about discussions within the Trump Organization to build a real estate property in Moscow as part of a deal to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
The documents unsealed Tuesday confirm that federal prosecutors in New York began their investigation into Cohen for bank fraud and campaign finance violations on a referral from Mueller. FBI investigators sought and obtained various warrants to search Cohen’s email accounts on three separate occasions “on or about” July 18, 2017, Aug. 8, 2017, and Nov. 13, 2017, in connection with the special counsel’s investigation.
“In connection with an investigation then being conducted by the Office of the Special Counsel (‘SCO’), the FBI sought and obtained from the Honorable Beryl A. Howell, Chief United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, three search warrants for emails and other content information associated with two email accounts used by Cohen, and one search warrant for stored content associated with an iCloud account used by Cohen,” reads the April 8, 2018, application for a warrant to search Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and two iPhones.
The document states that Mueller produced “non-privileged emails and other content information” to prosecutors in Manhattan on Feb. 8, 2018, after which the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York opened a probe into Cohen for “schemes” to defraud multiple banks and “to make an illegal campaign contribution in October 2016 to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump."
When he pleaded guilty, Cohen implicated Trump in the hush money scheme, though the president has denied wrongdoing and labeled his onetime confidant a liar.
But while the documents revealed few details about the scope of that investigation, they made clear that the probe into campaign finance violations continues to this day: Entire sections discussing “The Illegal Campaign Contribution Scheme” in several of the documents are completely redacted, ostensibly to protect the government’s ongoing investigation.
Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether others within the Trump Organization knew about the hush money payments.
Still, the newly released filings offer up dozens of pages of details about Cohen’s personal business dealings. They lay out evidence the government acquired in connection with its investigation into Cohen’s financial crimes related to his taxi business.
Details about Cohen’s consulting contracts were also laid out in the filings, including payments he received from a company owned by a firm tied to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Cohen received more than $80,000 in monthly payments and a total of $583,332.98 from Columbus Nova LLC, a Zurich-based firm that is linked to Vekselberg.
Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration, has been sanctioned by the U.S. for advancing Russia’s “maligned activities.” He also met with Cohen days before the inauguration to discuss the U.S. relationship with Russia and was reportedly questioned by Mueller.
The documents show that Cohen had payments from the consulting contracts, which have been previously reported, directed to a checking account at First Republic Bank. Prosecutors say that Cohen told the bank that the account would only receive payments from domestic clients.
Nevertheless, he received payments from a series of foreign clients, including Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., or KAI, a South Korea-based firm that produces and sells aircraft and satellites to the Pentagon among other customers. He also received payments from Kazkommertsbank, a Kazakhstani bank, that wired him payments for his monthly consulting fee.
Search warrants also unsealed on Tuesday indicate that investigators wanted to learn more about Cohen’s contact with foreign entities, with warrants for his email accounts requesting that any communications or documents about or shared with foreign contacts be turned over to law enforcement.
The documents also note that Cohen’s firm Essential Consultants was paid by AT&T, as has been previously reported, to “consult on political issues” such as net neutrality and the merger between AT&T and Time Warner.
In total, Cohen received more than $2.8 million in transfers and checks from these clients — both foreign and domestic — for his consulting work.
Cohen is due to report to prison in May to begin serving a three-year sentence.
Read the unsealed Cohen documents here.
Updated at 2:39 p.m.