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Federal prosecutors end hush-money investigation involving Trump

Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutors have closed their investigation into hush-money payments arranged by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former fixer and lawyer, ending what was considered one of the gravest potential legal threats to the president and the company that bears his name.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III revealed the decision on Wednesday in New York as he ordered prosecutors to release search warrants and other documents used during the investigation into Cohen.

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

The hush-money payments were part of an illegal campaign scheme to prevent embarrassing information about Trump from emerging shortly before the 2016 election, and the money was intended to silence two women who said they had slept with Trump years ago.

The National Enquirer, a tabloid run by a Trump ally, paid $150,000 to a former Playboy playmate, Karen McDougal, and Cohen gave $130,000 to a porn star known as Stormy Daniels.

Cohen was later reimbursed through the Trump Organization after the election, and prosecutors said Trump himself directed the scheme, creating the potential for additional prosecutions for violating campaign finance laws because the payments functioned as undisclosed political contributions.

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Although Justice Department rules prevent bringing criminal charges against a sitting president, some of Trump's critics had hoped the Cohen case could lead to an indictment of Trump after he leaves the White House.

However, it appears that Cohen will be the only person charged in connection with the payments. He is serving three years in prison for campaign finance violations and other crimes unrelated to the hush money.

Cohen's lawyer, Michael Monico, said he was surprised by prosecutors' decision to close the investigation.

"I thought there was substantial and significant information by which they would be able to bring a case against others," he said.

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