Prosecutors unlikely to charge Trump Org executives, sources say

Posted Friday, 12 July 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A federal investigation into whether Trump Organization executives violated campaign-finance laws appears to be wrapping up without charges being filed, according to people familiar with the matter. For months, federal prosecutors in New York have examined whether company officials broke the law, including in their effort to reimburse Michael Cohen for hush-money payments he made to women alleging affairs with his former boss, President Donald Trump. In recent weeks, however, their investigation has quieted, the people familiar with the inquiry said, and prosecutors now don't appear poised to charge any Trump Organization executives in the probe that stemmed from the case against Cohen. A spokesman for the Manhattan US Attorney's office declined to comment. An attorney for the Trump Organization declined to comment. In January, one month after Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors requested interviews with executives at the company, CNN reported. But prosecutors never followed up on their initial request, people familiar with the matter said, and the interviews never took place. Meanwhile, there has been no contact between the Manhattan US Attorney's office and officials at the Trump Organization in more than five months, one person familiar with the matter said. There is no indication that the case has been formally closed, and former federal prosecutors cautioned that it is always possible that new information could revive the inquiry. The Manhattan US Attorney's office continues to have at least one other ongoing Trump-connected investigation, a probe concerning the President's inaugural committee. The Trump Organization investigation was launched out of the Cohen case, in which he pleaded guilty to eight counts, including two counts of campaign-finance violations for orchestrating or making payments during the 2016 election to two women -- adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal -- who alleged affairs with Trump. (Trump has denied the allegations.) RELATED: Michael Cohen's life behind barsAfter Cohen made the $130,000 payment to Daniels, he was reimbursed, prosecutors said in court filings, by the Trump Organization. The company's executives authorized payments to him totaling $420,000, in an effort to cover his original payment, tax liabilities and reward him with a bonus, according to prosecutors, and they falsely recorded those payments as legal expenses in their books. The criminal inquiry centered on whether those payments, like the hush money Cohen gave to Daniels, violated campaign-finance law. In late February, Cohen testified before Congress, implicating several Trump Organization executives whom he said knew about financial misstatements and were involved in reimbursing him for the hush-money scheme. He provided lawmakers with copies of signed checks from Donald Trump Jr., the President's son who is now executive vice president of the company, and Allen Weisselberg, Trump Org's chief financial officer. Weisselberg had received immunity to testify before a grand jury in the Cohen case. There have been signs that prosecutors have continued to explore investigative threads tied to Cohen, who is currently serving a three-year prison term. As recently as May, prosecutors asked a federal judge to allow them to keep certain information redacted in search warrant material from the Cohen case because of, as the judge put it in a court filing, "ongoing aspects of the Government's investigation." The judge granted that request and ordered prosecutors to file an update "identifying the individuals or entities subject to any ongoing investigations and explaining any need for continued redaction," the deadline for which is Monday. One reason why prosecutors might ask the court to keep the information under seal is because the portion of the search warrants relating to campaign finance may involve an individual or entity that connects with another active investigation, said Harry Sandick, a former federal prosecutor with the Manhattan US Attorney's office and a CNN contributor. "They have the ongoing investigation into the inauguration," he said. "Maybe there is some unknown connection between those two investigations." He added that there's no benefit in formally closing a case as long as the statute of limitations is still open. "The early closing of a case is not good because things happen in the future," Sandick said. "There could be new reporting, a cooperator in another district, or a case that comes forward -- so why declare 'case over' and air all of your evidence when something else could happen in the future?"

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