Newly-released search warrant documents offer details on the federal inquiry into Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer. And by the spring of 2018, those prosecutors had expanded their investigation to include payments Cohen made to buy the silence of porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy centerfold, both of whom claimed to have had affairs with Trump.
Special counsel Robert Mueller began seeking warrants to get into Cohen's e-mails - and eventually his phones - just two months after he was named to lead the investigation. Columbus Nova, a private equity firm belonging to investor Andrew Intrater, a cousin of Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, signed a $1 million consulting agreement with Cohen.
The FBI said there was probable cause to believe that Cohen engaged in conspiracy to defraud the USA, make false statements to financial institutions and banks, and acted as an unregistered foreign agent in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
These are the affidavits and search warrants which gave officers the legal authority to search Cohen's homes and offices in 2018.
At the time, Mueller's team was investigating Cohen for a host of crimes, including some for which he's not been charged, such as money laundering and acting as an illegal agent of a foreign government.
Cohen was sentenced in December to serve three years in prison.
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Eventually, Mueller's team, which was focusing on whether Trump's 2016 campaign colluded with Russian Federation, referred much of the information on Cohen to prosecutors in the United States justice department's Manhattan office, leading to the dramatic raids on Cohen's residence and offices in April 2018.
The requests were made six months into Trump's presidency. A federal judge appointed an outside lawyer to review the material before Cohen's prosecutors to exclude any material that was covered by lawyer-client privilege or otherwise should not be shared with investigators.
Released months after they were first requested by news organizations, the documents are an early outline of the cases against Cohen, which played out in two separate investigations, one by Mueller's team and another by federal prosecutors in NY. They sought permission to gather data for the period beginning October 1, 2016, and ending November 8, 2016 - the day of the presidential election - and then again for the period starting January 1, 2018, and ending with the warrant's issuance. Mueller's team then handed over that data to the Manhattan federal prosecutors, and the Manhattan prosecutors also sought additional information filtered out of the Mueller searches.
■ Investigators looked closely at Cohen's campaign finance violations, and details of what they found are still being withheld. Trump and his supporters have repeatedly attacked Cohen as a convicted liar trying to save himself by speaking against his former boss.
This article was written by Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman and Devlin Barrett, reporters for The Washington Post.