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Michael Cohen search warrants show federal probe began nearly a year earlier than known

Posted at 7:41 AM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 10:45:25-04

The investigation of Michael Cohen began in the summer of 2017, nearly a year before federal agents raided the home and office of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, according to search warrants made public Tuesday.

The newly-released documents show that the first FBI warrant was executed on July 19, 2017, targeting Cohen’s Gmail account and seeking messages from all of 2016 up to July 2017. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team turned over documents to federal prosecutors in New York on Feb. 8, 2018.

Some 20 days later, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York received search warrants for the same account granting them the right to access Cohen’s emails from Nov. 13, 2017, to the end of February.

The search warrants reveal that Mueller’s investigation of Cohen began nearly a year earlier than previously known.

The FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel suite on April 9, 2018, seeking evidence of bank fraud and hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump. The investigators seized cell phones, emails and at least 12 audio recordings, according to federal prosecutors.

The warrants describe the use of a “triggerfish” or cell phone location device to pinpoint the location of Cohen who was using a room at the Lowe’s hotel in Manhattan. They also sought and obtained a “pen register” or “trap and trace” warrant to find out who Cohen was calling and receiving phone calls from, but without the ability to listen or monitor those calls.

Cohen was sentenced to three years behind bars in December for what a Manhattan federal court judge called a “veritable smorgasbord” of criminal conduct.

Cohen had earlier pleaded guilty to making secret payments to Daniels and McDougal, lying to Congress about the president’s business dealings with Russia, and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

The president and White House have denied the affairs.