(CN) – In a legal fight for public access brought by several news organizations, a federal judge in New York revealed the investigation into campaign finance crimes by Michael Cohen is finished and that sealed search warrant documents will be released to the public on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III disclosed the conclusion of the investigation into President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Cohen and the hush-money payments he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal in a court filing Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors had asked the documents remain sealed during the investigation, but now that Cohen’s case is concluded, Pauley ordered the release of search warrant records related to raids of Cohen’s home and office to be placed in the public record Thursday morning.
Pauley shot down the prosecutors’ request to redact some of the documents in order to protect third-party privacy.
“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance,” Pauley wrote in his 3-page court filing. “Now that the Government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials.
“Indeed, the common law right of access—a right so enshrined in our identity that it ‘predate[s] even the Constitution itself’—derives from the public’s right to ‘learn of, monitor, and respond to the actions of their representatives and representative institutions,’” Pauley wrote, referencing to a Second Circuit ruling over public access to government documents in United States v. Erie Cty.
The judge’s court filing marks a win for nine media outlets that requested the release of the documents. While some of the documents have been publicly released previously, several sections were blacked out.
The president denied having sexual relations with the two women and insisted any payments made were not related to his 2016 presidential campaign.
“We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer, said in a statement Wednesday. “We have maintained from the outset that the President never engaged in any campaign finance violation.”
Cohen was sentenced in December to three years in prison for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.
While federal prosecutors seemed to implicate Trump in the hush-money scheme, the Justice Department has said a sitting president cannot be indicted in federal court, instead leaving it to the impeachment process.