This Week in Conflicts: Cohen Subpoenaed in Trump Foundation Probe, Ivanka’s Ex-Business Partner Sued and Sen. Warren Unveils Anti-Corruption Bill


Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, is issued a subpoena as part of a Trump Foundation probe, Ivanka Trump’s former business partner is sued by the Department of Justice and Senator Elizabeth Warren unveils anti-corruption and public integrity bill.

Michael Cohen gives a speech in support of President Donald Trump in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in January 2017. (Image Credit: Michael Cohen YouTube channel)

Cohen Subpoenaed

The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance issued a subpoena to Michael Cohen as part of an ongoing multi-agency investigation into the Trump Foundation, CNN is reporting.  

The Tax Department would not be able to bring any criminal charges against President Trump’s former personal attorney if they did find any wrongdoing but could refer what they found to the New York attorney general’s office.

This investigation is separate from the New York attorney general’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation which targets President Trump and three of his children: Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. That lawsuit seeks to dissolve the New York-based nonprofit and prevent the Trumps from serving as nonprofit directors in the future.

This subpoena comes after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts in federal court including tax fraud and campaign finance violations. 

A Tax Department spokesperson confirmed the investigation to CNN but would not answer further questions about the subpoena.

Official 113th Congressional Portrait of Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. (Image Credit: U.S. Senate)

Warren’s Anti-Corruption Bill

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act this week and according to Vox, it is a “thorough attempt to end the influence of money on all three branches of government — legislative, executive, and judicial.”

The bill would ban the president, vice president, Cabinet members and congressional lawmakers from becoming lobbyists after they leave office. It would put other restrictions on federal workers related to lobbying and it would ban federal judges from owning individual stocks and accepting payments or gifts.

Additionally, it would require presidential and vice-presidential candidates to disclose eight years worth of tax returns and require them to place any assets that could pose a conflict of interest into a blind trust, something ethics experts have called on President Trump to do. To date, President Trump still owns his businesses and has not set-up a blind trust, but his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have day-to-day control of the companies.

A day after announcing the bill, Warren posted seven years of her own tax returns online. 

News organizations and political insiders are saying this could be a sign of her laying the groundwork for a 2020 presidential run while others support her proposal as a way to “drain the swamp.”

A businesswoman and former model, Ivanka Trump’s speech was peppered with stories from her childhood. She says Donald Trump has made wage equality a practice in his company throughout his entire career. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, A. Shaker/VOA)

Ivanka’s Ex-Business Partner Sued

The Department of Justice is suing a friend and former business partner of Ivanka Trump, Politico is reporting.

The lawsuit against New York businessman Moshe Lax was filed last month and alleges Lax was part of a plan to defraud the federal government out of millions of dollars. According to the news organization, the money was associated with tax liabilities on his father’s estate and seeks $60 million in unpaid tax liabilities.

How is this connected to Ivanka?

According to Politico, “though the complaint does not mention the president’s daughter or accuse her of wrongdoing, Madison Avenue Diamonds, the business that she helped run for years under the name Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry, figures prominently in the government’s case. One of the 10 schemes outlined in the complaint is Lax’s alleged transfer of a roughly $21 million interest in Madison Avenue Diamonds from his father’s estate to a holding company for nothing in return.”

A public relations firm told Politico, “the issues in this case have nothing to do with Ivanka or the Ivanka Trump brand.”

But, as Politico reports, “the government alleges that Lax fraudulently transferred a portion of equity in Madison Avenue Diamonds at some point between 2008 and 2012. During that period, Trump remained involved with the business. At one point, Trump also had an ownership stake in Madison Avenue Diamonds, according to a deposition she gave in an unrelated case that was obtained by POLITICO last year.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” presents a comprehensive, free, searchable database detailing all of President Donald J.Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as president of the United States. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, learn more about conflicts of interest at every level of government and search our database. If you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking you can email us or contact us here to contribute to the project.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.