FBI began investigation into Cohen months before raid, records show

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Newly unsealed legal filings said investigators working for Mueller, the special counsel, obtained a search warrant on 18 July 2017 to look into a Gmail account belonging to Cohen, one of Trump's closest advisers for a decade. And he has said that Trump directed hush money payments, in violation of campaign finance laws, to women who claimed they had affairs with him.

Special counsel Robert Mueller began seeking warrants to get into Cohen's e-mails - and eventually his phones - just two months after he was named to lead the investigation.

Some of the payments he received were from companies with strong foreign ties, including a Korean aerospace company, a bank in Kazakhstan and an investment firm affiliated with a Russian billionaire.

August 8, 2017: Federal Bureau of Investigation agents sought and obtained a search warrant from Judge Howell for content stored in Cohen's iCloud account. An affidavit supporting the requests said that they were made in connection with an investigation into campaign finance violations.

Since pleading guilty, Cohen has publicly repudiated Trump.

Cohen was sentenced in December to serve three years in prison.

Cohen's first consulting client was Columbus Nova, an investment firm controlled by the Renova Group, based in Zurich, Switzerland, according to an Federal Bureau of Investigation search warrant application tied to last year's raids on Cohen's office, home and hotel room. Cohen was never charged with such a crime.

The warrants describe Cohen's false statements to financial institutions about the objective of Essential Consultants - Cohen's firm that took payments from AT&T, Novartis and the Russian national - as well as "activities undertaken by Cohen on behalf of certain foreign persons or foreign entities without having registered as a foreign agent", one of the documents says.

Hundreds of pages of redacted search warrants and other documents were unsealed Tuesday per a February ruling by a USA district judge.

The Renova Group is an industrial holding company run by Viktor Vekselberg, one of seven Russian oligarchs who were slapped with sanctions by the US State Department past year in retaliation for the Kremlin's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and other "worldwide malign activity".

Among the items seized by federal prosecutors in Manhattan were two DVDs, CNN reported of the documents. It was during those appearances that Cohen provided lawmakers with documentation of Mr. Trump's questionable business practices, including a copy of a $35,000 check Mr. Trump made out to Cohen from his personal bank account to pay off adult film star Stephanie Clifford, to avoid any money being traced back to the president and the campaign.

Since pleading guilty, Cohen has publicly turned on Trump, telling the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on February 27 that his former boss was a "racist", "con man" and "cheat".

This article was written by Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind Helderman and Devlin Barrett, reporters for The Washington Post.

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