By Ronn Blitzer
Published July 17, 2019
President Trump’s legal team is declaring victory, as a federal judge said in a court order Wednesday that the investigation of hush-money payments arranged by Michael Cohen – which Cohen claims were at Trump’s direction – has come to an end.
Judge William H. Pauley III announced that prosecutors in the Southern District of New York revealed this development to the court in a status report, as media companies including The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, and Dow Jones & Co. have pushed to unseal the search warrant materials related to the case. The end of the investigation likely means no additional charges will be filed against anyone, including the president.
“We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed,” Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation.”
Still, Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, wasn't entirely happy. “Case closed? Why is Michael Cohen — after all his voluntary cooperation and testimony that [former Special Counsel Robert] Mueller said was credible and went to 'core issues' and all the information and documents he voluntarily provided to prosecutors and to congress — 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?”
While current Justice Department policy is not to indict a sitting president, there was concern that prosecutors could have been preparing to charge Trump upon leaving office. If Trump were to lose the 2020 election, his presidency would end before the statute of limitations would run out.
Cohen already pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in the case, stating that Trump directed him to arrange payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, to ensure that they would not speak about affairs they claimed to have had with Trump in the past. Cohen admitted in court that he arranged for those payments to benefit Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, qualifying them as campaign contributions in excess of the legal maximum.
Daniels’ outspoken former attorney Michael Avenatti reacted to the news of the probe’s closure by stating that Trump should now face charges.
“Now that the investigation into the criminal campaign finance violations has ended, Trump (aka Individual 1) should be promptly indicted. There is no valid legal authority preventing the indictment of a sitting president. Trump must be held accountable,” Avenatti, who is facing a variety of unrelated criminal charges, tweeted Wednesday afternoon. He then added that he is "no fan of Michael Cohen," but thinks "it is outrageous and bogus" that he was convicted while Trump has not faced charges.
The New York investigation included the execution of search warrants on Cohen’s home, hotel room, office, safe deposit box, and electronic devices. The warrant and related documents, which will be made public at 11 a.m. Thursday morning, are expected to provide insight into the evidence the FBI had against Cohen that led to them carrying out those searches.
Documents related to the searches of Cohen’s email and iCloud accounts were unsealed with redactions in May.
Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison term in upstate New York for the campaign finance violations, as well as other offenses including bank and tax fraud.
Fox News' Tamara Gitt and John Roberts contributed to this report.