Longtime Trump ally and personal attorney Michael Cohen has refused congressional requests to provide “information and testimony” pertinent to their investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, ABC News reported Tuesday.
“I declined the invitation to participate as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” Cohen told ABC via email of the requests for his contacts with Kremlin-linked officials.
The New York Times reported in February that Cohen was among the handful of Trump associates “under scrutiny” as part of the federal investigation into Russia’s election meddling, which is now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller. But this is the first indication that Cohen was of interest to Congress.
The New York-based attorney and Trump fixer, who recently took on an additional role as a fundraiser for the Republican National Committee, reportedly had been involved in a backchannel scheme to convince the Trump administration to lift economic sanctions against Russia. Cohen told the Times in February that he personally helped deliver a “peace plan” from a member of Ukraine’s parliament to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, although he quickly changed his story and denied having done so to other news outlets.
Cohen has a complex web of business ties with both Ukraine and with Trump. He first came to the real estate mogul’s attention in the mid-2000s, when he and his Ukrainian in-laws bought up large numbers of Trump-branded apartment buildings.
Cohen’s sizable personal fortune reportedly comes from a string of lucrative partnerships with Ukrainian immigrants, working in taxi medallion leasing, the casino boat business and the Ukrainian ethanol business. He eventually become general counsel for the Trump Organization and sat on the boards of the Eric Trump Foundation and Miss Universe Organization.
News that both federal and congressional investigators have their eye on Cohen offers additional evidence that the various, sprawling Russia probes are reaching into the President’s inner circle. Reports over the weekend revealed that Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, proposed to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. that they establish a secret line of communication with the Kremlin using Russia’s diplomatic facilities. According to Reuters, Kushner is now a “focus” of the federal probe.
Clarification: This story was updated to include reporting from the Associated Press about the committee issuing a subpoena to Cohen as part of the Russia probe. Language about Cohen receiving a subpoena was later removed from the AP article, although no editor’s note or correction was appended. The AP said on Twitter that it had deleted a prior tweet about Cohen receiving a subpoena, and wrote that “a new tweet will be sent.”