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Michael Cohen Court Records Unsealed, Showing That Prosecutors Expanded Hush Money Probe

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Nearly 900 pages of court documents were unsealed Thursday in the investigation into Michael Cohen’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
  • One of the documents shows that prosecutors had expanded the investigation beyond what was previously known, to include whether anyone besides Cohen broke the law regarding payments to Daniels.
  • Prosecutors indicated that they are unlikely to file additional charges in the investigation, which is “effectively concluded.”

Federal prosecutors expanded their investigation into Michael Cohen’s hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels beyond what was previously known, but the probe has “effectively concluded,” documents unsealed Thursday in a New York case involving the former Trump lawyer show.

The court filing, which was submitted under seal Monday, indicates that prosecutors are unlikely to file additional charges related to the hush money investigation.

Prosecutors in the Southern District of New York told Judge William Pauley in the Monday court filing that they investigated whether anyone else besides Cohen violated campaign finance laws related to the payment. The investigation also looked into whether anyone made false statements in the investigation or tried to obstruct the probe.

Media pundits have speculated since the FBI enforced search warrants against Cohen in April 2018 that the investigation would ensnare the Trump Organization, President Donald Trump and possibly the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

Cohen was the only current or former Trump associate to face charges related to a $130,000 payment that he made to Daniels in October 2016.

The former Trump fixer pleaded guilty on Aug. 21, 2018 to a campaign finance violation over the payment, which he said was made at the direction of Trump. Cohen also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and bank fraud charges. He is currently serving a three-year prison sentence. (RELATED: Judge Says SDNY Has Ended Trump Campaign Finance Probe, Orders Michael Cohen Records Unsealed)

Cohen has said he made the payment to Daniels at Trump’s direction. Search warrants unsealed Thursday suggest the FBI believed Cohen and Trump had discussions about Daniels.

Other court records unsealed Thursday show that Cohen embarked on a mad dash to kill news stories about Daniels and Trump beginning on Oct. 8, 2016, a day after the release of an “Access Hollywood” tape that showed Trump speaking crudely of women in 2005.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: (L to R) Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speak to the media as they exit the United States District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and lawyers representing President Trump are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to Cohen's relationship with President Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences last week. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speak to the media as they exit the United States District Court Southern District of New York for a hearing related to Michael Cohen, April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

An FBI special agent said in an affidavit that Cohen had a series of phone calls that began with one from Hope Hicks, who served as Trump’s top communication official.

Trump joined the call with Cohen, which lasted four minutes. Cohen then phoned David Pecker, an executive at AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer. After that call, Cohen reconnected with Hicks.

Later that evening, AMI executive Dylan Howard sent Cohen a text message reading: “Keith will do it. Let’s recommence tomorrow.”

The FBI agent said that “Keith” referred to Daniels’ attorney.

The timing of the calls led the FBI agent to conclude that Cohen was attempting to prevent Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, from going public with her story of an affair with Trump.

“Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the ‘Access Hollywood’ story,” the agent wrote in an affidavit.

Cohen signed an agreement with Daniels and lawyer Keith Davidson on Oct. 11, 2016, but Davidson threatened to pull out of the deal after Cohen failed to fulfill the agreement, the affidavit says. Negotiations resumed on Oct. 25, 2016 with a series of phone calls and text messages between Cohen, Davidson and Howard.

Cohen spoke to Trump twice by phone the next day. Hours after their early morning phone calls, Cohen wired $131,000 to his own account from a home equity line of credit that he had taken out to fund the Daniels payment. He wired $130,000 to Davidson the next day.

The agent said in the affidavit that Cohen and Trump rarely spoke by phone in the months leading up to a series of phone calls in October 2016.

Trump and Cohen spoke by phone only once in May 2016, once in June 2016, once in July 2016, zero times in August 2016 and twice in September 2016, according to the agent.

Other search warrants were released in the Cohen case on March 19. The documents showed that the special counsel’s office applied for search warrants on Cohen’s email accounts in July 2017, much earlier than previously known.

The warrants showed that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, was investigating Cohen for money laundering, bank fraud and acting as an unregistered foreign agent.

Mueller, who initially began investigating collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government, ultimately referred much of his case against Cohen to prosecutors in New York. Cohen pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s probe on Nov. 29, 2018 to one charged that he made false statements to Congress regarding efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

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