NY Times Fights Feds on Michael Cohen Search Warrants

MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Times asked a federal judge on Friday to disclose the search warrants and supporting materials justifying the raid on the properties of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

This combination photo shows President Donald Trump and attorney Michael Cohen. The audio recording of Trump and his then-lawyer, Cohen, captures the two men discussing hush money payments to a former Playboy model alleging an affair.(AP Photo)

“The public interest in openness is particularly high in this case,” David McCraw, a lawyer for the paper, wrote in a 6-page letter on Friday.

After his apartment, office and hotel was raided by the FBI in April 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes four months later.

Trump has since repudiated his former “fixer” in the wake of a dramatic August hearing where Cohen implicated the president in making two illicit payments to women “for the purpose of influencing the election.”

“Mr. Cohen undertook some of his criminal conduct in his capacity as the president’s associate, and — he alleges — at his direction,” the Times letter notes. “Even if the focus of this investigation was initially on Mr. Cohen’s ‘personal business dealings,’ its scope ultimately became much bigger than that. At the same time, the president and his supporters have suggested that the investigation was politically motivated and not based on the rule of law. Simply put, the public interest in knowing the underlying bases for the investigation could not be higher.”

Both Cohen and the government oppose the Times’ demand, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office quickly responded with a 1-page letter requesting the opportunity to argue that the documents should remain under seal to protect an unspecified “ongoing grand jury investigation.”

Prosecutors want to submit a portion of this filing for the judge’s eyes alone.

Granting their request to seal portions of their argument, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III set an Oct. 26 deadline for the government to file its arguments.

In its letter, the Times notes: “The Second Circuit has not decided whether a First Amendment right of access applies to search warrant materials.”

Two years ago, however, an attorney successfully unsealed a search warrant that revealed the basis for the FBI’s widely criticized decision to reopen its probe into then-candidate Hillary Clinton shortly before the election.

In both cases, those seeking the documents described access as a fundamental right.

“We make this request pursuant to the public’s right of access to judicial records, grounded in both the federal common law and the First Amendment,” its letter states.

Cohen faces sentencing on Dec. 12.

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