This Week in Conflicts: Cohen Testifies Before Congress, Kushner Cos. Seeks Federal Loan and Trump Inaugural Committee Receives Another Subpoena


President Donald J. Trump arrives on Air Force One to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., March 2, 2017. (Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

This week, a look at what Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, told Congress, Kushner Companies seeks a federal loan and the Trump inaugural committee is hit with another subpoena.

Photo of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney. (Image Credit: Twitter)

Cohen Testimony

President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress this week.

Last year, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about a Moscow real estate deal President Trump was pursuing. In addition, he pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes. This week, he attempted to clear up his statements and set the record straight.

According to CNN, the key takeaways from the testimony included:

  • Cohen confirmed Trump directed him to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
  • Cohen said he briefed Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. a number of times about Trump Tower Moscow.
  • Cohen made clear that Trump never directly asked him to lie to Congress.

In his testimony Cohen also discussed other issues including, how President Trump would change the value of his assets, sometimes to seem richer, sometimes to lower his taxes.

Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. reacted on Twitter after the testimony. Eric Trump said the testimony was a “national disgrace.”

A day after Cohen’s testimony, two GOP lawmakers referred Cohen to the Justice Department “for possible prosecution for perjury during his testimony,” CNN is reporting.

A main point in question is whether or not Cohen tried to get a job in the White House. Cohen said he was given the only job he ever wanted, which was serving as President Trump’s personal attorney. Eric Trump and others say that is not true. According to Eric, “Michael was lobbying everyone to be ‘Chief of Staff.’”

Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor to President Donald J. Trump, sits in on a meeting with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2017. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Kushner Companies Seeking Loan

According to Bloomberg, Kushner Companies has been in talks with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about a loan for the company’s biggest purchase in ten years.

The loan is for a $1.15 billion purchase of apartments in Maryland and Virginia.

“Such a deal would increase Kushner Cos.’ exposure to government-backed mortgages at the same time its former chief executive officer is one of the most powerful people in the White House,” Bloomberg reports. “Jared Kushner divested ownership in many of the company’s assets to close family members when he joined the government. Kushner Cos. had more than $500 million in loans from Fannie and Freddie at that time. Government-backed financing on this latest deal could more than double that figure.”

Trump Tower located at 725 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of East 56th Street in Midtown Manhattan. (Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Jorge Láscar)

Trump Org. Calls for End to Investigation

The Trump Organization is calling for the House Judiciary Committee to end its investigation into the company due to what they claim is an ethics violation.

In a letter to the chairman of the committee, a Trump Organization attorney said hiring Barry Berke as a legal consultant for the committee violates ethics rules because Berke’s firm represented the Trump Organization.

“Your ‘Special Oversight Counsel’ and long-time Kramer Levin partner and litigation co-Chair, Barry H. Berke, is ethically conflicted from representing or advising the Committee,” the letter states.

CNN is reporting, the Trump Organization is also accusing the law firm “of removing references about its long-term relationship with the company from its website.”

In a statement, Berke’s firm said “its past work for the Trump Organization is unrelated to ‘the work Mr. Berke will be performing for the committee.’ The firm also stated that Berke’s work for the committee will be in his ‘personal capacity’ and the firm won’t be compensated for Berke’s legal services to the committee,” Politico reported.

Another Subpoena for Inaugural Committee

President Trump’s inaugural committee is now facing scrutiny from another government agency, NBC News is reporting.

The attorney general for Washington, D.C. has issued the organization a subpoena for documents this week. This is the third government agency looking into the committee’s finances after the organization raised and spent a record $107 million.

“The inaugural committee drew immediate scrutiny after the announcement that it raised double the previous record set by Barack Obama, who brought in $53 million in donations for his first inaugural in 2009 — and still had money left over to spend on other White House events,” NBC News reported.

Earlier this month, NBC News reported “New York prosecutors were investigating allegations that some donors gave money in exchange for access to influence Trump administration policy positions.”

Trump hotel Washington D.C. (Image Credit: Flickr user Maxence)

A Night Inside Trump International Hotel, D.C.

On a recent episode of the Trump, Inc. podcast, WNYC and ProPublica reporters share what they experienced after staying the night in President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.

According to the podcast, the news team saw, “Nigerian presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and his entourage…Abubakar’s visit is surprising for several reasons. He had been reportedly barred from the U.S. for nearly 10 years for his alleged involvement in corruption while he was Nigeria’s vice president. Perhaps you remember the $90,000 in cash that was found in Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson’s freezer back in 2005? That was allegedly a bribe for Abubakar.”

Last year, according to the podcast, Abubakar hired a former campaign adviser to President Trump to lobby Congress, the State Department and the National Security Council on “visa issues.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

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.