Prosecutor recused from Cohen probe


Associated Press

NEW YORK

The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan has been recused from involvement in the FBI’s probe of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

Geoffrey Berman, a Republican and former law partner of Rudy Giuliani’s, was named the interim U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York in January.

He was removed from the investigation of Trump attorney Michael Cohen before investigators obtained search warrants in the case, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Federal agents who raided Cohen’s office were looking for information about payments to a former Playboy playmate and a porn actress who claim to have had affairs with Trump, two people familiar with the investigation said Tuesday.

Public corruption prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan are trying to determine if there was any fraud related to the payments to Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels, according to one of the people. McDougal, a former playmate, was paid $150,000 by the parent company of the National Enquirer for her story, though the magazine never published it. Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels as part of an agreement, made before the 2016 election, to keep her from going public with her allegations.

A warrant used in the raid Monday specifically authorized agents to seize records related to McDougal, said one of the people, who demanded anonymity to discuss the confidential details.

The payments appear to be part of a pattern of Trump’ self-described fixer trying to shield the businessman-turned-politician from embarrassing press by buying women’s silence.

The new details on the Cohen raid, first reported by The New York Times, emerged as the president boiled over on Twitter about it and evidence that investigators are zeroing in on his inner circle. The raid on Cohen was not carried out by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

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