Special counsel Robert Mueller began investigating President Donald Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for fraud in his personal business dealings and for potentially acting as an unregistered foreign agent at least nine months before Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in NY raided his home and office, according to documents released Tuesday.
The FBI said there had been "probable cause" to believe Cohen had committed campaign finance violations and it received a warrant for emails sent and received between June 2015 and February 2018, according to court documents.
■ A major focus of the investigation was Cohen's taxi businesses and misrepresentations he made to banks as part of a scheme to relieve himself of some $22 million in debt he owed on taxi medallion loans.
Cohen allegedly spent much of the cash on "largely personal expenses" that were charged to his American Express card and also incurred at the swank, members-only CORE club on East 55th Street, where the initiation fee is $50,000 and annual dues are about $17,000. 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.
Cohen began cooperating with federal investigators soon after the April 2018 raids on his office and hotel room.
November 7, 2017: The special counsel's office sought and obtained a search warrant from Howell authorizing the "use of pen registers and trap and trace devices" that allowed them to find out who Cohen was calling and receiving calls from.
Both Cohen and Trump cried foul over the raids, with Cohen's attorney at the time calling them "completely inappropriate and unnecessary" and the president taking to Twitter to declare that "Attorney-client privilege is dead!"
A court-ordered review ultimately found only a fraction of the seized material to be privileged.
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.
However, perhaps the most important takeaway from the unsealed documents is not what information they contain, but what is redacted.
Prosecutors had opposed the request, saying disclosure "would jeopardize an ongoing investigation and prejudice the privacy rights of uncharged third parties".
Judge William Pauley III ordered that prosecutors make redacted copies of the search warrant and the FBI's search warrant affidavit publicly available, leaving out personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.
The judge said prosecutors can disclose portions of materials related to Cohen's tax evasion and false statements to financial institutions charges, along with Cohen's conduct that did not result in criminal charges.