Hundreds of pages of documents regarding hush-money payments by Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to a porn star and a Playboy model who said they had sexual encounters with the president were made public on Thursday, offering a window into a probe that began last year and landed Cohen in prison.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan on Wednesday had ordered that the material, used by prosecutors to obtain a 2018 search warrant for Cohen’s home and office, be unsealed on Thursday morning. The judge found there was no reason to keep the documents secret after prosecutors told him that their investigation into the payments had ended.
Cohen, 52, pleaded guilty in August 2018 to violating campaign finance law by directing payments of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels and $150,000 to Playboy model Karen McDougal to avert a scandal shortly before the 2016 presidential election. Both women have said they had sexual encounters with Trump more than a decade ago, and that the money was meant to buy their silence. Trump has denied the encounters.
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Cohen, who was once Trump’s self-described “fixer,” began serving a three-year prison sentence in May for his campaign finance violations and other crimes, including making false statements to a bank and tax evasion.
Pauley had ordered many of the search warrant material about Cohen’s personal business dealings unsealed earlier this year, but allowed the hush-money documents to remain secret because an investigation involving the payments was still in progress.
Cohen pleaded guilty last November to separate charges brought by the office of former Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who was investigating contacts between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the extent of contacts between Trump and Russians during the campaign.