- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A federal probe into hush-money payments made to silence women who alleged affairs with President Trump has concluded, a federal judge said Wednesday.

The investigation led by the Southern District of New York was tied to Mr. Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who made the hush payments. Federal prosecutors said the payments broke campaign-finance laws because they were intended to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors were examining whether other Trump Organization executives were involved in the payments. But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III wrote in a three-page order that their probe was now complete.

“The government now represents that it has concluded the aspects of its investigation that justified the continuing sealing of the portions of the materials relating to Cohen’s campaign finance violation,” he wrote.

The revelation was part of Judge Pauley’s ordering prosecutors to file largely unredacted versions of the search warrants used last year for the raids on Cohen’s apartment, office and hotel. Although the 200-page search warrants are already public, prosecutors have sealed about 20 pages of the supporting material and the specific evidence sought regarding the payments to the women.

Prosecutors must publicly release the materials by 11 a.m. Thursday, Judge Pauley wrote. He also said the government must make a public a status report acknowledging the end of the hush-money probe.

“The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance,” Judge Pauley wrote. “Now that the government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials.”

Prosecutors had asked for redactions in the public releases “to protect third-party privacy interests,” but Judge Pauley denied their request.

“In particular — and in contrast to the private nature of Cohen’s business transactions — the weighty public ramifications of the conduct described in the campaign finance portions warrant disclosure,” he wrote.

The judge did allow redactions for the names of law enforcement investigators, references to individuals who purportedly engaged in unrelated business transactions with Cohen or contemplated doing so.

Jay Sekulow, an attorney for the president, said he was pleased the investigation was now closed, calling the allegations made against Mr. Trump “ridiculous.”

“We have maintained from the outset that the president never engaged in any campaign finance violation,” Mr. Sekulow said in a statement.

Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, questioned why federal prosecutors would close the case, saying it was premature. He questioned why Cohen was the only one who faced charges over the campaign finance violations.

“Why is Michael Cohen … 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?” he said in a statement.

Cohen is serving a three-year sentence for the campaign violations seeming from the payments. The payments were made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of whom claim to have had adulterous affairs with the president.

Mr. Trump has denied the affairs, but he admitted he knew about the payments.

During his sentencing, Cohen implicated the president in the payments, claiming he made the payments at Mr. Trump’s direction. Mr. Trump has insisted the payments did not violate campaign finance laws.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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