NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months by federal prosecutors who empaneled a grand jury to probe his business dealings beyond his law practice, according to a new court filing.
Prosecutors revealed the new details about the Cohen investigation after his lawyer appeared in court seeking to temporarily bar prosecutors from reviewing materials that FBI agents seized in a search this week of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room.
After three separate hearings on the matter Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood said she did not have enough information to issue any ruling on that request. She ordered the lawyers — including Cohen personally — to return to court Monday morning with more details, including a list of Cohen’s clients.
The Justice Department’s filing states the searches resulted from a “monthslong investigation into Cohen, and seek evidence of crimes, many of which have nothing to do with his work as an attorney, but rather relate to Cohen’s own business dealings.”
The government’s motion also reveals that prosecutors examined a safe-deposit box used by Cohen — carrying out the searches in part because they feared evidence might be destroyed if they had simply served him with a subpoena. Officials redacted a section in the document explaining why they thought they could not trust Cohen to turn over records willingly.
The filing, signed by acting U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami in the Southern District of New York, also says that while the current investigation was referred by special counsel Robert Mueller III, the New York investigation “has proceeded independent” of Mueller’s work.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether any crimes were committed as part of an effort by Cohen to squelch damaging stories about Trump when Trump was a presidential candidate, according to a person familiar with the matter.
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Among the materials sought by investigators in the search were records relating to payments made to adult-film star Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, two women who allegedly had sexual liaisons with Trump years ago.
Prosecutors also say that the president’s own statement that he did not know Cohen had paid Clifford may negate any claim of attorney-client privilege on that matter. Authorities revealed that they searched a number of email accounts used by Cohen.
“The results of that review ... indicate that Cohen is in fact performing little to no legal work, and that zero emails were exchanged with President Donald Trump,” the filing states.
The president does not use email, according to associates.
Todd Harrison, an attorney for Cohen, urged the judge to issue a temporary restraining order to let either Cohen’s lawyers or a court-appointed special master review the materials seized by FBI agents.
The unusual, high-stakes court hearing Friday also featured an appearance by an attorney representing Trump, Joanna Hendon. She argued that materials obtained from Cohen had to be handled carefully because some could relate to a sitting president.
Cohen is being investigated for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the matter.