What's in the Cohen warrant documents
Federal prosecutors used a new law signed by Trump to go after his former fixer Michael Cohen, court filings reveal.
Investigators in the Southern District of New York obtained a search warrant to access Cohen’s Gmail account in February 2018. Google turned over some documents, but the tech giant “declined to produce data that it stored on computer servers located outside of the United States,” according to an affidavit submitted to the court by an FBI agent working on Cohen’s case.
Weeks later, Trump signed the CLOUD Act into law, which gave US law enforcement more legal pathways to pursue data stories overseas. The provision was tucked into the $1.3 trillion spending bill Trump signed to avoid a federal government shutdown.
With the new law on the books, federal prosecutors went back to court in and asked for another warrant to get the materials that Google refused to turn over.
In an April 2018 affidavit, the FBI agent argued that “providers are required to disclose data even if it is stored abroad” under the new law. The judge approved the new search warrant later that day, giving investigators access to additional information from Google, including Cohen’s emails, attachments, address book and files stored on Google Drive.
The Cohen materials outline how in October 2016 Essential Consultants was established, and then how in January 2017, money began to flow in monthly from Columbus Nova LLC. The monthly installments were for $83,333 and totaled $583,332 from January, 2017 to August 2017.
Why this matters: The government, in its documents, states that LLC is "an investment management firm controlled by Renova Group, an industrial holding company based in Zurich, Switzerland that is controlled by Russian national Viktor Vekselberg."
Who's that? Viktor Vekselberg is an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was sanctioned in early 2018 for activities including election interference. The sanctions prohibit Vekselberg from traveling to the US.
Here's the text from the document:
Clarification: The headline of this post has been updated to reflect that Columbus Nova is linked to Viktor Vekselberg, rather than controlled by him, as described in court documents.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan got permission from a judge to review materials about Michael Cohen that were previously obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to documents unsealed on Tuesday.
Specifically, the Manhattan prosecutors got permission to review two DVDs and a USB drive full of information that was apparently collected by Mueller’s team, which included what appears to be the legal documents regarding the searches themselves. Prosecutors in SDNY took this procedural step out of an abundance of caution, according to the court filings.
The DVDs were not collected during the April raid and they do not belong to Cohen.
One of the DVDs was labeled "Cohen — 2018.03.07," according to the documents. The second DVD was labeled "2-28-18 Cohen SW Returns — Google and 1&1," according to the records.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post said that federal prosecutors retrieved two DVDs belonging to Cohen during the April 2018 raid. The DVDs were not actually collected during the April raid and they did not belong to Cohen.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office was investigating Michael Cohen for lying to banks, breaking foreign lobbying laws and money laundering, according to one of the newly released search warrants in Manhattan federal court.
But note: Cohen has not been charged with illegal foreign lobbying or with money laundering.
Mueller's search warrants — which were approved by a federal judge in DC in the second half of 2017 — sought Cohen's emails related to his business dealings under a shell company used to cut hush money deals with women accusing then-candidate Donald Trump of extramarital affairs.
Mueller's justification for those warrants were "several different courses of conduct by Cohen, including, among other things, false statements to financial institutions relating to the purpose of an account he opened in the name of Essential Consultants LLC and the nature of funds flowing into that account, and activities undertaken by Cohen on behalf of certain foreign persons or foreign entities without having registered as a foreign agent," an FBI investigator wrote to a judge, piggybacking on Mueller's pursuit.
Michael Cohen withdrew money from his shell company Essential Consultants account for “largely personal purposes” — including fees from “the Core Club,” which is a private social club on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, according to page 26 of exhibit one.
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Manhattan federal prosecutors have kept pages of details secret about their justification for seeking warrants on Michael Cohen related to his close ties to President Trump and then-alleged campaign finance violations for hush money payments to women around the 2016 election.
There does not appear to be extensive justification the prosecutors have made visible to the public that describes their reasoning for looking at phone and email communications of Cohen.
Instead, in describing to a federal judge probable cause they had to investigate Cohen's campaign-time scheme, investigators write almost 20 pages of detail — but they're are all redacted.
The Manhattan US Attorney and FBI "are investigating a criminal violation of the campaign finance laws by Michael Cohen, a lawyer who holds himself out as the personal attorney for President Donald J Trump. As detailed, there is probable cause to believe that REDACTED," they wrote to the judge.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is planning to stay on at the Justice Department “a little longer” than originally anticipated, according to a Justice official familiar with his thinking.
Initially, he planned to leave in mid-March, but no firm date was ever set and after consulting with Attorney General Bill Barr he will now continue on a bit longer. He has not given the White House his two weeks’ notice.
Why this matters: Rosenstein has been overseeing the Russia investigation and as CNN has reported, he has signaled to other officials that he would leave when he was satisfied that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation was either complete or close enough to completion that it was protected.
Chief Judge Beryl Howell of DC District Court — whom Special Counsel Robert Mueller asked for warrant approvals related to Michael Cohen — granted approval on two separate occasions to track the numbers of Cohen's incoming and outgoing phone calls.
Those approvals came on:
- Nov. 7, 2017
- Jan. 4, 2018
Mueller's team then handed over that data to the Manhattan federal prosecutors when they referred the case.
Pg. 7 of exhibit 2 establishes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller referred Michael Cohen to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on Feb. 8, 2018.
The Cohen raid took place nearly 2 months later to the day, on April 9.
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