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Search warrants show FBI probed Michael Cohen as early as July 2017

Redacted documents related to the search warrants carried out during a raid on Michael Cohen's home and office last year show that the FBI sought and obtained a warrant for Cohen's emails as early as July 2017.

Why it matters: This suggests the FBI's investigation into President Trump's longtime personal attorney was opened far earlier than previously known. The search warrant documents, which run nearly 1,000 pages, were published Tuesday after a federal judge ordered their release earlier this week, citing valid public interest in their contents.

Other highlights:

  • Notably, many of the documents related to Cohen's campaign finance violations are heavily redacted, suggesting that the Southern District of New York's investigation into hush money payments made on behalf of President Trump remains active.
  • Beginning in July 2017, the FBI obtained warrants to search Cohen's emails based on probable cause that — among other things — Cohen was acting as an unregistered foreign agent. This allegation, for which Cohen has never been charged, was previously not known.
  • Independent journalist Marcy Wheeler notes that part of this allegation relates to Cohen's failure to register under the lobbying law FARA, a violation that famously ensnared Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. This could be related to Cohen's consulting work for foreign companies seeking to gain access to the Trump administration.
  • But Wheeler also notes that a second foreign agent crime listed in the warrants — 18 USC §§ 951 — may not be related to his consulting work. As Lawfare outlines, 951 is a "non-political" foreign agents statute that requires the person to "act as an agent of a government, not of some other entity." It's the same statute under which Russian spy Maria Butina was charged.

Read all the Cohen search warrant documents here.