WASHINGTON, D.C. May 23, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Justice should examine new evidence that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Public Citizen told the agency today.
Public Citizen, which on May 10 submitted a complaint to the FARA Unit of the Department of Justice, as well as the Secretary of the U.S. Senate and Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, amended the complaint today. The organization’s original request was for an investigation into whether Cohen violated FARA or the Lobbying Disclosure Act by accepting compensation from corporate clients in exchange for “access” to officials in the Trump administration.
BBC reported today that Cohen received at least $400,000 to arrange talks between the Ukrainian president and Trump. Shortly after the June meeting, Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency ended its investigation into Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Cohen denies the allegations.
“This is jaw-dropping, even for the pay-to-play, transactional Trump administration,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “If these allegations are proven true, then Cohen almost certainly violated the law in failing to register as a foreign agent. It’s entirely possible that other laws were broken as well.”
When Public Citizen filed its May 10 complaint, the public record at that point suggested that Cohen had solicited companies that had business pending before the Trump administration, proposing that he could best assist in the pursuit of their interests. Spokespersons for Novartis and AT&T acknowledged making financial contributions to Cohen’s Essential Consultants, with both saying the payments were meant to help them understand the new president and his administration.
“Our original complaint was based on Cohen’s solicitations to his corporate clients of being able to provide access to administration officials. We did not have concrete evidence that such access was in fact provided,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “This new report involving payments made and access received by the Ukrainian government appears to be the smoking gun.”
Public Citizen’s ethics complaint against Cohen can be viewed here.