MANHATTAN (CN) – Fighting to keep a lid on search warrants that justified the raids on former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, prosecutors told a federal judge Thursday that ceding to the demand by seven news outlets could undermine an ongoing grand jury investigation.
“From the standpoint of protecting judicial efficiency and law enforcement interests, it makes far more sense to permit the government to conclude its ongoing investigation before proposing redactions,” Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami wrote in a 14-page memo this afternoon.
Prosecutors did not disclose which grand jury probe they believed would be compromised if The New York Times, Associated Press, CNN, New York Daily News, Dow Jones, Newsday and New York Post prevail in their open-records request.
The Times previously claimed that releasing the warrants would not compromise a law-enforcement investigation because Cohen already has pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes.
Emphasizing that the public interest in this case “is particularly high,” Times attorney David McCraw argued in a brief earlier this month that “any sensitive law enforcement information in the documents could be redacted.”
But prosecutors call piecemeal disclosure an unworkable solution.
“First, such disclosure would require a line-by-line review of the materials – which are substantial – to identify which information must be redacted to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation; which information constitutes protected grand jury material; and which information must be redacted to protect privacy interests of uncharged individuals,” the government’s memo states.
“While this cumbersome exercise might be appropriate at the conclusion of the investigation, to require it in this context would set a precedent that is contrary to the public interest, by requiring the government to engage in such a time-consuming exercise in the midst of ongoing investigations,” it continues. “Moreover, as the investigation develops, certain information might become public by other means, or the disclosure of certain specific information might no longer be an impediment to the investigation, requiring the constant revisiting of decisions about what to redact. If such piecemeal unsealing were permitted, it could give rise to repeated or periodic motions to unseal in investigations of media interest, placing a burden on both the government to constantly justify sealing and the court to constantly review unsealing applications.”
U.S. District Judge William Pauley III gave the news organizations until Nov. 2 to reply to the government’s memo.
At the dramatic hearing this August where Cohen pleaded guilty, the onetime fixer to the president implicated Trump in making two illicit payments to women “for the purpose of influencing the election.”