The Michael Cohen Search Warrant Documents and the Breadth of the Trump-Russia Probe
In recent years, news organizations have made it standard practice, in the name of transparency and maybe also S.E.O., to post newsworthy court documents on their Web sites, for readers to peruse themselves. “Read the documents: Michael Cohen search warrants,” a Tuesday headline on the Washington Post’s Web site reads. The header on the page reads “National Security,” and, next to it, “Context.” The documents in question are search-warrant applications and other court filings that the F.B.I. submitted while it was investigating Cohen, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, for banking, tax, and campaign-finance crimes. The documents run to nearly nine hundred pages.
It’s long past time when anyone except, perhaps, for a few Twitter obsessives and the best national-security reporters can keep up with the significance of each new turn in the Trump-Russia story and Robert Mueller’s investigation. “Hon, Mueller’s got this. Come to bed,” the caption on a recent cartoon from Julia Suits reads. It’s an understandable reaction. Parsing all of the new Cohen material will take time. What news that has been found so far includes the fact that Mueller was looking into Cohen as early as July, 2017. That’s a reflection, as the Times put it, of how little the public knew of Mueller’s activities in “real time,” and how soon after his appointment Mueller started investigating Cohen.
There are as many fresh questions in these documents as answers: parts, particularly sections concerning the campaign-season hush money that Cohen arranged for women who claimed to have slept with Trump, are redacted. That the public has access to them at all—that Web sites are free to embed them on their pages—is the result of a legal fight that the Times and other news outlets embarked on back in October. Since then, Cohen has pleaded guilty in federal court and testified before Congress. There have been developments in the federal cases against Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. There have been reshufflings at the top of the Justice Department. Recently, there have been persistent rumors of Mueller winding down his investigation, and a public debate about what kind of report he might produce and who might be allowed to see it. Sometimes, following the Trump-Russia story can be like tracking some kind of subterranean creature, waiting for it to burst up into view. These Cohen revelations may not have yielded much news yet. But maybe wait for tomorrow.