WASHINGTON — A federal judge ordered the release of documents related to the investigation into hush money payments to women claiming they slept with President Trump.
The documents must be posted by 11 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, July 18, Judge William H. Pauley of the Southern District of New York wrote in a decision released Wednesday.
“The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance. Now that the Government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials,” Judge Pauley wrote.
Pauley ordered prosecutors to release the Justice Department’s July status report and the search-warrant materials related to raids on President Trump’s jailed former attorney, Michael Cohen.
In his ruling Wednesday, Pauley rejected the government’s request to redact portions of the documents, citing “the weighty public ramifications of the conduct described.”
Federal officials told the judge they have completed their investigation into the matter.
Federal prosecutors wrote in December that President Trump coordinated and directed payments that bought the silence of two women who claimed they’d had affairs with him, although they referred to him as “Individual-1.”
“Cohen himself has now admitted, with respect to both payments, that he acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” SDNY prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo for Cohen.
Cohen later confirmed, during sworn congressional testimony, that “Individual-1 is President Donald J. Trump.”
Cohen pleaded guilty to his role in the campaign finance violations, among other financial crimes, and began serving a three-year sentence in May.
In rejecting the government’s request to redact the documents to protect third-party privacy interests, Judge Pauley wrote that “the involvement of most of the relevant third-party actors is now public knowledge, undercutting the need for continued secrecy.”
The names of some of Cohen’s business partners in the New York taxi industry, law enforcement officials and one “uncharged-third party” referred to in a footnote could be redacted, the judge wrote. But the rest has to be released to the public.
Judge Pauley’s order comes a week before special counsel Robert Mueller is due to testify for several hours before two Democrat-controlled committees in the House of Representatives.
Cohen was an early focus of Mueller’s probe into Trump’s connections to Russia and potential obstruction of justice. Documents already released in Cohen’s case showed that Mueller was interested in money flowing to Cohen’s bank accounts for consulting gigs Cohen landed after Trump took office.
Pauley’s order didn’t mention Trump — but he made clear he’s ordering the materials released because he believes the American public has a right to know what their elected officials have been up to.
“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,’” he wrote.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 16, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)