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Cohen investigation began in 2017, search warrant shows

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By Tom Winter and Rich Schapiro  with NBC News Politics
Image: Michael Cohen, former attorney to President Donald Trump, testifies
Michael Cohen, former attorney to President Donald Trump, testifies on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.   -   Copyright  Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

The investigation of Michael Cohen began in the summer of 2017, nearly a year before federal agents raided the home and office of President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, according to search warrants made public Tuesday.

The newly-released documents show that the first FBI warrant was executed on July 19, 2017, targeting Cohen's Gmail account and seeking messages from all of 2016 up to July 2017.

The FBI raided Cohen's office and hotel suite on April 9, 2018, seeking evidence of bank fraud and hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump. The investigators seized cell phones, emails and at least 12 audio recordings, according to federal prosecutors.

The warrants describe the use of a "triggerfish" or cell phone location device to pinpoint the location of Cohen who was using a room at the Lowe's hotel in Manhattan. They also sought and obtained a "pen register" or "trap and trace" warrant to find out who Cohen was calling and receiving phone calls from, but without the ability to listen or monitor those calls.

Cohen was sentenced to three years behind bars in December for what a Manhattan federal court judge called a "veritable smorgasbord" of criminal conduct.

Cohen had earlier pleaded guilty to making secret payments to Daniels and McDougal, lying to Congress about the president's business dealings with Russia, and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

The president and White House have denied the affairs.