A judge has ordered the public release of FBI documents pertaining to the raid and arrest warrant issued in the Michael Cohen case, in which the former fixer and attorney for President Donald Trump had his home and offices raided. According to a report by The Hill, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III filed an order green-lighting the government's proposed redactions, which will include obscuring Cohen's email address, phone numbers, apartment number, and information about his safety deposit box. Judge Pauley gave prosecutors until Tuesday to publicly release the documents.
The order is significant for observers of the ongoing probe into Trump's business dealings and possible campaign irregularities, as information contained in the documents was the basis for Cohen's guilty plea to a number of federal charges in 2018. The Tuesday release ordered by Judge Pauley is the culmination of actions taken by a group of news organizations, who petitioned the court for the release of the warrants, warrant application, supporting affidavits, and other supporting documents that were presented by FBI agents in order to secure the warrant. The news organizations in question cited the public's right to know why the FBI found the raid to be justified.
"The public interest in the underlying subject matter of the Materials — which implicates the integrity of the 2016 presidential election — is substantial," wrote Judge Pauley in a 30-page opinion filed in early February.
When that opinion was filed, Judge Pauley noted that the then-sealed warrant materials contain information relating to other people involved in Cohen's taxi medallion business, banks that he defrauded by making false statements, and firms and individuals that paid him consulting fees.
However, Judge Pauley also ordered government prosecutors to redact any information that could jeopardize the ongoing investigation into campaign finance violations involving payoffs -- payoffs which Cohen claims Trump knew about, and ordered. It was the day after Cohen's controversial testimony before the House Oversight Committee alleging Trump's direct involvement in the payoff -- and other illegal activities -- that prosecutors submitted proposed redactions. It is these redactions that were accepted by Judge Pauley.
Trump has consistently denied his involvement in any wrongdoing, and specifically denied knowing anything about the payoffs. He also accused Cohen of lying in order to get better treatment from prosecutors, and perhaps a lighter sentence. Cohen is scheduled to report to prison in May, where he will begin serving a three-year sentence. Cohen pleaded guilty to nine felonies, including violations of campaign finance laws for his role in paying off two women to remain silent about their alleged affairs with Trump. The former Trump attorney also pleaded guilty to charges related to tax evasion.