Ahead of his testimony in Congress next week, Donald Trump’s long-time lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen has given more information to federal prosecutors.
Cohen, who worked at the Trump Organization for a decade, met the prosecutors in Manhattan last month. He offered information about possible irregularities within Trump’s business and about a donor to the Trump inaugural committee, which is under investigation for possible illegal foreign payments.
The federal prosecutors are pursuing a parallel investigation to that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Last summer, their inquiry led to Cohen pleading guilty to paying off two women, soon before the 2016 election, who claimed sexual encounters with Trump a decade earlier. He said that Trump was criminally involved by directing him to makevthe payoffs.
Prosecutors questioned Cohen about the handling of finances within the Organization and about Imaad Zuberi, a venture capitalist and political fund-raiser who gave $900,000 to the Trump inaugural committee. At the time of the donation, Zuberi tried to hire Cohen as a consultant with a $100,000 check.
A spokesman for Zuberi confirmed the check on Friday, saying it was never cashed. Zuberi had previously denied any dealings with Cohen beyond a few conversations.
Early this month, it was confirmed that the Manhattan prosecutors have issued a wide-ranging subpoena for documents related to all donations and spending by the inaugural committee. Among those under scrutiny are Thomas Barrack, a billionaire financier and real estate developer: he chaired the inaugural committee and raised money for a Super PAC in summer 2016, when Trump’s presidential campaign was short of cash and struggling to raise funds from major Republican donors.
Reports in December said prosecutors were focusing on whether individuals from Middle Eastern nations — including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — used straw donors to disguise money funneled into the inaugural committee and the Super PAC, hoping for influence over US policy.
Barrack, one of Trump’s closest friends, has extensive networks in the Gulf.
Cohen, who begins a three-year prison sentence in May, is scheduled to testify before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees and the House Oversight Committee next week.
The White House referred questions yesterday to the Trump Organization. An Organization spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
The Gulf Connection
Officials from Saudi Arabia and the UAE had a series of meetings with Trump’s advisors during the campaign before and after the inauguration.
In August 2016, Gulf envoys met Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign advisors to offer help in electing Trump Sr. The meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, the founder of the paramilitary firm Blackwater, and George Nader, the emissary of a UAE prince.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, his father Charles, and Kushner Companies pursued loans from Saudi and UAE entities for a troubled New York City building project on which a $1.9 billion payment was due in early 2019. And in January 2017, Nader brokered a meeting between Prince and a Russian official in the Maldives.
Earlier this week, an interim staff report for the House Oversight Committee set out how Trump advisors promoted a lucrative project for export of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
The “Marshall Plan for the Middle East” was linked to the consultancy of Trump campaign advisor Michael Flynn. Although Flynn resigned as National Security Advisor in February 2017, over his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the discussion continued through the early months of the Administration.