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Court documents show close contact between Cohen and Trump during hush-money arrangements

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Michael Cohen was in close contact with Donald Trump in 2016 as he arranged for hush-money payments to women who said they'd had affairs with the future president, according to court documents released Thursday.

An affidavit, used to obtain court approval for searches of Cohen's properties more than a year ago, cites phone records showing frequent communication between the two men as Cohen scrambled to enact the illegal scheme shortly before the 2016 election.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III ordered the documents revealed after prosecutors said they had finished their review of the payments that were aimed at preventing the women from revealing their claims of sexual affairs with Trump.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance," Pauley wrote in his order Wednesday. "Now that the government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials."

Included in the documents was a previously sealed report -- filed by prosecutors earlier this week -- on the status of the investigation. They wrote that the government "has effectively concluded its investigations" of who besides Cohen "may be criminally liable" for campaign finance violations, and whether other people "made false statements, gave false testimony or otherwise obstructed justice in connection with this investigation." The identity of "certain individuals" who have not been charged were redacted.

The documents, however, raised new questions about the credibility of Hope Hicks, who served as a spokeswoman for Trump during his campaign and later as White House communications director.

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According to the affidavit, Hicks told an FBI agent that she did not learn about allegations involving Trump's affair with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels until November 2016. But phone records show her in close contact with Cohen at critical times before the election. For example, within the same hour, Cohen talked separately with Hicks, Trump and executives at American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer and assisted in the scheme, according to the documents.

Lawyers for Cohen and Hicks did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the documents.

During closed-door testimony to the House Judiciary Committee last month, Hicks denied being present for any conversations between Cohen and Trump involving Daniels, one of the two women who said they'd slept with Trump.

Many of the documents released Thursday had been made available in March in heavily redacted form. Nearly 20 pages on what prosecutors described as "the illegal campaign contribution scheme" were concealed from court-approved warrants used on April 9, 2018, during searches of Cohen's home, hotel room and office.

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