This Week in Conflicts: More requests for Documents from Trump’s Inaugural Committee, Security Clearance Approval Questions and Cohen Says he was “Encouraged” to Lie


Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore)

This week, top contractors with President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee are being asked to turn over documents, a whistleblower comes forward with more details about the approval of security clearances for Jared Kushner and others, and Buzzfeed News is again reporting that Michael Cohen was told to lie to Congress.


Inaugural Committee Investigation

The New York Times is reporting that the top contractors to President Trump’s inaugural committee have been asked to provide documents to the House Intelligence Committee.

“The committee asked for documents from and an interview with Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who had been a close friend of the first lady, Melania Trump, and who had helped plan the celebrations and parties around the inaugural,” the newspaper is reporting. “The request was disclosed by a lawyer for Ms. Winston Wolkoff in a letter this week to the inaugural committee.”

The New York Times said it is not sure what documents were specifically requested.

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena to the inaugural committee for documents relating to donors and finances.

President Trump’s inaugural committee raised a record $107 million, more than double the previous record set by President Barack Obama’s first inaugural committee.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Jared Kushner and U.S. President Donald Trump are seen during their meeting at the King David hotel in Jerusalem. (Image Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Security Clearances

Jared Kushner has been identified by the Washington Post as the “senior White House official whose security clearance was denied last year because of concerns about foreign influence, private business interests and personal conduct.”

The identification of President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser was disclosed in committee documents released this week that described testimony by Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House’s Personnel Security Office. She spoke to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last month in a private interview.

According to the New York Times, she told the committee, “senior Trump administration officials granted security clearances to at least 25 individuals whose applications had been denied by career employees for ‘disqualifying issues’ that could put national security at risk.”

Newbold said Kushner had too many “significant disqualifying factors” to receive clearance, the Post reported, but her decision was  “overruled by Carl Kline, the career official who then headed the office.”

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

Cohen & the Moscow Trump Tower

Buzzfeed News is again reporting that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, said he was told to lie to Congress about the timeline of when negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended

The article cites a 12-page memo sent to top House Democrats by Cohen’s attorneys.

According to the memo, President Trump, “encouraged Cohen to lie and say all Moscow Tower project contacts ended as of January 31, 2016 using ‘code’ language — telling Cohen during various conversations that there was ‘no collusion, no Russian contacts, nothing about Russia’ after the start of the campaign.’”

Buzzfeed previously reported similar allegations in January. The story was met with a strong response from Democratic lawmakers, with some calling for the impeachment of President Trump. The article also resulted in a response from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Office, an unusual step for the office which previously would not comment on allegations related to the investigation reported in the news media. The office called Buzzfeed’s characterization of the testimony “not accurate.”

The new memo from Cohen’s attorneys said President Trump “encouraged” him to lie to Congress. In Buzzfeed’s original story, the news organization said the president “directed” him to lie.

Last year, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about the Moscow real estate deal President Trump was pursuing. In addition, he pleaded guilty to eight counts of financial crimes.

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.