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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday scolded four senior intelligence officials for refusing to answer questions about conversations with or about President Donald Trump that had been reported the press.

In remarkable closing remarks, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told the assembled intelligence officials to “take a message back to the administration” about what they were permitted to say in public and to lawmakers.

“At no time should you be in a position where you come to Congress without an answer,” Burr said sternly. “It may be in a different format, but the requirements of our oversight duties and your agencies demand it.”

Throughout the almost three-hour hearing, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, NSA Director Mike Rogers and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein repeatedly stonewalled senators. McCabe would not comment on reports about Trump’s private conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey, while Coats and Rogers sidestepped questions about whether Trump asked them to downplay or intervene in the federal Russia investigation.

McCabe said that he did not want to step on the toes of the special counsel investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference, allowing that Trump and Comey’s discussions may fall under Robert Mueller’s purview. That answer was insufficient for senators from both sides of the aisle, who pushed back in testy exchanges.

Burr said explicitly charged that all four witnesses offered inadequate responses.

“You’re in positions whereby you’re required to keep this committee fully and currently informed of intelligence activities,” he said.

The North Carolina Republican invoked the “Gang of Eight notification briefing,” an option used to brief the eight most senior Senate and House members on intelligence matters not “appropriate” to share with the full committee or in open session, as a way these officials could provide straight answers.

“Congressional oversight of the intelligence activities of our government is necessary and it must be robust,” Burr said.

Private conversations between President Donald Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey could be part of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the bureau’s acting head.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe confirmed that such discussions either already are, or are likely to become, part of a criminal investigation in his Wednesday testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“It seems to me that what you say is either that is part of a criminal investigation or likely to become part of a criminal investigation—the conversation between the President of the United States and Mr. Comey—and, therefore, you cannot properly comment on that,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said to McCabe. “Is that accurate?”

“That’s accurate, sir,” McCabe replied.

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Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Wednesday that he believes any conversations he had with his predecessor, James Comey, about President Donald Trump may fall under the purview of a special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) asked McCabe during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing whether Comey ever told him that Trump asked the former FBI director to swear loyalty to him, as the New York Times has reported. McCabe declined to answer.

“I think those [conversations] fall within the scope of issues investigated by the special counsel and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on those today,” he replied when pressed further.

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The latest and most glaring sign of President Donald Trump’s growing isolation in the West Wing is his rift with Jeff Sessions, who prior to taking the helm at the Justice Department served as a critical bridge between Trump and Congress as one of the earliest, most vocal supporters of his presidential campaign. Sessions reportedly offered to resign as U.S. attorney general late last month because of the deteriorating relationship.

Trump’s slow-burning fury apparently stems from Sessions’ voluntary recusal from the sprawling federal investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election, as well as any matters concerning the Trump campaign, according to a bevy of fresh reports from CNN, ABC News, the Washington Post and Politico. The President felt that move was unnecessary, and anonymous sources close to the administration told news outlets that he blames Sessions both for the expansion of the Russia probe and the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to oversee it.

Trump also lashed out at Sessions’ Justice Department this week, blaming the agency for the “watered down” second iteration of his executive order temporarily barring immigration from a handful of majority-Muslim countries.

The attorney general’s own frustration with the President, escalated by a series of public and private clashes over the recusal, prompted Sessions to offer his resignation just before Trump left on his first trip abroad as President in late May, according to Politico.

The White House and Sessions’ spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores, did not immediately respond Wednesday morning to TPM’s requests for comment.

News of Trump’s anger with Sessions comes as the federal and congressional Russia probes are ramping up, leaving the administration drowning in a wave of negative headlines. The New York Times reported Tuesday night that James Comey, the FBI director who Trump abruptly fired in May, had asked Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump, after the President reportedly asked him to drop the bureau’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Comey is expected to testify about that conversation and memos he kept detailing other conversations he had with Trump about the Russia investigation and its various subplots during a highly-anticipated Thursday hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The administration has reportedly enlisted a number of Trump allies to make the media rounds to push back on Comey’s testimony, and Trump himself plans to live-tweet the event, according to a Washington Post report.

Four current administration officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, NSA Director Michael Rogers, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are also expected to answer questions about the Russia probe and Comey’s firing in a separate Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday.

The first few months of Trump’s presidency have been as tumultuous as his campaign, which underwent several staff shakeups and cycled through three campaign managers.

Flynn was the shortest-lived national security adviser in U.S. history, with a tenure of only 24 days. The abrupt firing of Comey, a career federal prosecutor with six years left in his 10-year tenure as the bureau’s director, sent shockwaves through Washington, D.C. The departure of Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump and a top surrogate throughout the 2016, would be similarly astonishing.

As New York Times reporter Adam Goldman noted on Twitter, Sessions’ resignation would allow Trump to appoint a new attorney general who would not have to recuse themselves from the Russia probe. Mueller, the special counsel, would have to answer to that new appointee.

But the Trump administration has had a difficult time finding candidates interested in attaching themselves to a White House that appears to be in free fall. And confirming a new attorney general in the middle of such a fraught political environment would be no easy task.

With Sessions growing increasingly alienated, chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly zig-zagging in and out of the President’s favor, and Trump beginning to grumble about his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has come under scrutiny in the various Russia probes, Trump barely has a close ally left in government—and he’s not even half a year into his presidency.

Russian efforts to disrupt voting software and mislead U.S. election officials were much more intensive and targeted more states than was suggested in a leaked intelligence report published Monday, according to the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I don’t believe they got into changing actual voting outcomes,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) told USA Today. “But the extent of the attacks is much broader than has been reported so far.”

The Intercept obtained a leaked National Security Agency document that showed Russian military intelligence tried to hack a U.S. voter registration software company and more than 100 local election officials. A young government contractor, Reality Leigh Winner, was arrested and charged with “removing classified material from a government facility and mailing it to a news outlet” the same day that the news site published the document.

Though Warner told USA Today that the leaker, whoever it is, “should be pursued to the full extent of the law,” he expressed grave concern that none of the Russian efforts to disrupt the U.S. electoral system “stopped on Election Day.”

The Virginia Democrat said he wanted intelligence agencies to publicize the names of election officials and states affected by Russian interference to ensure that no similar attempts are successful in the 2018 midterm races, per USA Today’s report.

Other Democratic lawmakers are joining the call for greater transparency on these explosive revelations. The Senate Homeland Security Committee’s top Democrat, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), said that the leaked document offered “verified information” of the Kremlin’s involvement in disrupting the U.S. presidential election and pressed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to take steps to protect voting systems.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), ranking Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over federal elections, wrote a letter to national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster requesting that her panel receive a classified briefing on “the full extent of Russian interference in U.S. election systems.”

Klobuchar called the information surfaced in the Intercept document “deeply concerning,” and told McMaster it “goes beyond what was outlined in the December 2016 report from 17 U.S. intelligence agencies on Russian interference in our election.”

This week, a number of high-ranking current and former intelligence officials are scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers is slated to testify before the panel on Wednesday, while fired FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify on Thursday.

All three are expected to be asked about reports that President Donald Trump asked Comey to quash an investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn, Warner told USA Today.

Outside of a lobbying contract that may have benefited the government of Turkey, the principal players in a subplot of the sprawling federal Russia investigation centered on ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn have another point of contact: a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that throws an opulent annual gala.

The Nowruz Commission, an organization founded to “promote and preserve” the Persian New Year, is an under-the-radar link between Flynn, his former business partner, Bijan Kian, and their onetime Turkish client, Ekim Alptekin. In various photos from galas and awards ceremonies dating back several years, the men can be seen separately glad-handing with people involved with the commission while dressed to the nines.

There is no indication that the nonprofit explains the trio’s relationship. Exactly how Flynn met Kian, and why Alptekin contracted their now-shuttered firm, Flynn Intel Group, remains unclear.

Alptekin declined to comment to TPM directly, but through a spokesperson said his “relationship with Mr. Kian and Mr. Flynn was established independently from the Nowruz Commission.”

The photographs indicate that Flynn and Kian, an Iranian-American businessman and former U.S. government official who served on the Trump transition team, were familiar at least a year and a half before teaming up in the fall of 2014 to form the small intelligence consulting firm whose work for Alptekin is under scrutiny by federal investigators.

Photography by: Tony Brown, Imijination Photography

Posted by Nowruz Commission on Monday, April 1, 2013

From left to right: Bijan Kian, Michael T. Flynn, Lori Flynn

The Nowruz Commission was founded in 2010 by Kian, Minnesota businessman Nasser Kazeminy and Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the U.S., Erlan Idrissov. Alptekin, who paid Flynn Intel Group $530,000 to research and produce negative PR materials on exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen during the 2016 campaign, is listed as the commission’s vice chairman, a member of the board of directors and an ambassador representing Turkey. Flynn Intel Group’s general counsel, Robert Kelley, is listed as secretary general of the commission.

In photographs and YouTube videos of the commission’s splashy annual fundraising dinner, Flynn pops up repeatedly. He can be seen seated at the head table by Kian’s side and mingling with guests. At the 2014 gala, in a moment described as the evening’s “highlight,” Flynn helped honor Beeta Christine Rafiekian, Kian’s daughter and the executive director of the Nowruz Commission, with the new title of “Global Nowruz Ambassador.”

Photography by: Tony Brown, Imijination Photography

Posted by Nowruz Commission on Monday, April 1, 2013

From left to right: Gissou Kian, Bijan Kian, Lori Flynn, Michael T. Flynn

That same event provided another point of overlap between the Nowruz Commission and Flynn Intel Group. The mistress of ceremonies at the 2014 gala was former CNN anchor Rudi Bakhtiar, who the firm paid $1,200 to carry out on-camera interviews with several high-profile Turkish generals and journalists who have said they were persecuted by supporters of Gulen. TPM was unable to reach Bakhtiar, but she recently told the Wall Street Journal that Kian, who she described as a family friend, brought her onto the project under false pretenses, even neglecting to disclose at first that the work would be done for Flynn’s firm.

“I’m a journalist,” Bakhtiar told the Journal. “He never said ‘We’re going to make a documentary that’s going to crush Gulen.’ I never would have done it.”

Photography by: Tony Brown, Imijination Photography

Posted by Nowruz Commission on Monday, April 1, 2013

From left to right: Bijan Kian, Rudi Bakhtiar

The annual gala, which raises money for a handful of international humanitarian organizations, seems to be the commission’s most visible and prominent project. For the ticket price of $500 or a sponsorship of between $2,000-$50,000, guests are invited to gather in tony D.C. ballrooms for a night of drinks, live performances and delicacies from the countries represented on the commission.

“This is just a celebratory thing,” Fereydoun “Fred” Nazem, a venture capitalist and Nowruz Commission ambassador who noted he has never actually attended one of the commission’s galas, told TPM in a phone interview. “I’m excited that people are excited about it because it’s such a beautiful and festive occasion. And with all the bad news from that part of the world, this is a very nice, peaceful thing.”

An eclectic mix of celebrities, deep-pocketed businessmen, academics and diplomats compose the commission’s advisory council, board of directors and list of ambassadors. Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) are honorary co-chairs. Iranian actress Shoreh Adgashloo, Gallup chairman and CEO Jim Clifton and Hasan Asadullozoda, a bank executive who is one of the wealthiest men in Tajikistan, are among the dozens of individuals name-checked on the commission’s website.

The Honorable Bijan Kian, Robert Kelley, Ambassador Altekin, Mrs. Safai, President of Nowruz Commission Gissou Kian, Bijan Ganji.

Posted by Rudi Bakhtiar on Friday, February 24, 2017

Another notable name on the commission’s list of ambassadors: Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Kislyak is a central character in the sweeping investigations into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials, and Flynn was forced out of the Trump administration after lying to Vice President Mike Pence and others about his repeated contacts with the well-connected diplomat.

Kian and Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, did not respond to TPM’s requests for comment for this story.

Kelley invoked his role as attorney for Flynn Intel Group when declining comment, saying, “It’s all attorney-client privilege. I can’t talk about it, okay?”

Nancye Miller, a spokesperson for former CIA director Jim Woolsey, who is listed as an ambassador to the commission, directed questions to Kian or Kazeminy, another of the nonprofit’s founders who once was accused of funneling tens of thousands of dollars to former Sen. Norm Coleman’s family and improperly showering Coleman with expensive gifts. Kazeminy’s secretary directed TPM to Jim McGuire, president of Kazeminy’s investment firm NJK Holding Corporation.

“Mr. Kazeminy was one of the co-founders of Nowruz as a private individual.  Nowruz is among the many charities that Mr. Kazeminy has personally supported,” read a statement attributed to NJK Holding. “Questions concerning Mr. Kian should be directed to him.”

Several other individuals involved with the commission did not return requests for comment. Six who did, however, offered effusive praise of Kian and his wife, Gissou, who serves as the commission’s president and CEO. Only one individual recalled seeing Alptekin at Nowruz Commission events, and none offered comment on Flynn or knew of any apparent connection between Flynn Intel Group’s principals and Turkey.

Another member of the commission’s advisory council told TPM that if anything, Turkey was “not represented as much as they should be” in the organization.

Photography by: Tony Brown, Imijination Photography

Posted by Nowruz Commission on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From left to right: Bijan Kian, Michael T. Flynn

Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s well-compensated lobbying for a Turkish businessman during the 2016 campaign is now part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, Reuters reported Friday.

Three sources told Reuters that Mueller was assuming control over an ongoing federal grand jury investigation into Flynn’s lobbying work, which forced him to retroactively register as a foreign agent after leaving the White House.

Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, was paid $530,000 by Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, to research and produce negative PR materials about exiled Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Gulen orchestrated a failed coup against him last summer from his compound in Pennsylvania.

Reuters reported that the grand jury investigation, run out of the Eastern District Court of Virginia, has issued subpoenas for Flynn and his business associates. The subpoenas requested bank records, documents and communications related to Flynn, Flynn Intel Group, Alptekin and Inovo, per the report.

Mueller’s investigation, which includes determining whether there was any collusion between Trump campaign associates and Kremlin operatives, is also looking into Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials. Flynn had multiple conversations with the Kremlin’s ambassador to the U.S. about lifting the Obama administration’s economic sanctions against Russia. Former acting attorney general Sally Yates testified that the Justice Department believed Flynn was “compromised with respect to the Russians” because he knowingly misrepresented those conversations to other Trump administration officials.

President Donald Trump could invoke executive privilege to prevent fired FBI director James Comey from delivering his scheduled testimony before Congress next week, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggested Friday.

Conway first told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the Trump team would be “watching with the rest of the world” to see what Comey said in his congressional testimony.

Then, asked directly if Trump would use his presidential authority to block Comey’s testimony, Conway hedged: “The President will make that decision.”

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Immediately after entering the White House, the Trump administration embarked on a secret, forceful push to lift economic sanctions against Russia, Yahoo News reported Thursday.

Senior Trump officials went toe-to-toe with former Obama administration and State Department staffers scrambling to curtail their efforts and to stall an order to develop a plan that would lift sanctions and restore access to Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and Long Island, according to Yahoo.

“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” Dan Fried, who was chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until February, told Yahoo.

The Trump administration’s effort ultimately fell short, thwarted in part by a series of damaging news reports about senior officials’ undisclosed conversations with Russian officials.

This campaign to pressure the State Department is one of several efforts by Trump associates to relieve economic pressure on Russia. Ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn spoke to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about lifting new sanctions the day the Obama administration announced them in late December. Trump’s personal attorney also reportedly hand-delivered to Flynn’s office a Ukrainian lawmaker’s “peace plan” that called for ending U.S. sanctions against Russia.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s “pit bull” personal attorney, is the latest associate of the President’s with ties to a former Soviet republic to emerge as a person congressional investigators want to hear from in their probes into Russian interference in the U.S. election.

The pugnacious Manhattan lawyer’s name has cropped up in various subplots involving the Trump administration and Russian interests, from a largely unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy to an effort to get a secret Ukraine “peace plan” that would end U.S. sanctions against Russia on the desk of Trump’s first national security advisor. He’s also reportedly a person of interest in the sprawling federal investigation into Russian election meddling.

Like other Trump campaign associates who’ve been asked to provide Congress with documents, Cohen has business ties to the former Soviet Union. Ukraine is a country that has figured heavily both in Cohen’s professional and personal life, as he and his brother, Bryan, are each married to Ukrainian immigrants. Cohen and his in-laws own multiple units in Trump-branded properties, and he maintains business relationships with other Ukrainian immigrants (there’s no evidence that any of his business partners are connected to efforts to interfere in the U.S. election).

Reached for comment Thursday, Cohen asked TPM to provide him with a list of written questions. Cohen did not respond to those questions by press time.

Here’s an overview of Cohen’s web of business ties and other dealings:

Conduit for secretive Ukraine “peace plan”

When the New York Times first reported in February that Cohen hand-delivered to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn a proposal to end the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and lift U.S. sanctions against the former, Cohen confirmed the story.

“Who doesn’t want to help bring about peace?” Cohen said to the newspaper, justifying his delivery of a plan drawn up by Andrii Artemenko, an eccentric member of Ukraine’s parliament.

The effort was coordinated by Cohen, Artemenko and Felix Sater, a mafia-linked Trump associate who helped the Trump Organization identify opportunities in Russia in the mid-2000s and plead guilty to his involvement in a stock manipulation scheme.

Cohen dramatically changed the account of his role in the peace plan in three subsequent interviews. First he “emphatically” denied to the Washington Post discussing the plan or “delivering any documents,” saying he simply told Artemenko that he could mail his proposal to Flynn.

In a subsequent conversation with Business Insider he denied “even knowing what the plan is,” before finally telling NBC News that even if he indeed brought the proposal to the White House, there would be nothing “wrong with that.”

The story took a bizarre twist in early March, when Artemenko announced the death of Alex Oronov, Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law, via Facebook. His rambling post blamed media pressure following the New York Times report for the death of Oronov, who he said helped broker his meeting with Cohen.

“Yes, I’m guilty …. Alex Oronov, my partner, my friend, my mentor, Alex was a family member of Michael Cohen,” Artemenko wrote. “And he organized all kinds of stuff, including an introduction and a meeting for me with Michael Cohen.”

An ethanol business that’s all in the family

An art dealer-turned-agricultural sector magnate, Oronov teamed up with the brothers Cohen on several companies tied to the ethanol industry. The trio incorporated International Ethanol of Ukraine, Ltd. in Delaware 2006, and in 2007 followed up with Ukrethanol LLC, a company that exported farm equipment from the United States to Ukraine on behalf of Oronov’s agribusiness company, Grain Alliance.

The ethanol gig brought Cohen to Ukraine in the mid-2000s as Oronov and fellow investors looked for an ideal site for an ethanol processing plant, according to the Kyiv Post.

Evgeniy Radovenyuk, current CFO of Grain Alliance who was involved in planning for the plant, told the Ukrainian newspaper that Cohen “participated in discussions” but had “no financial involvement.”

Cohen recently told Yahoo News that he went to Ukraine twice in “either 2003 or 2004” because his “brother’s father-in-law lives in Kiev.”

“That’s the extent of it,” Cohen told Yahoo. “I’ve never been to Russia. I have no Russian Kremlin connections.”

Riding with taxi magnates

Cohen has a lucrative side venture in the taxi business, teaming up separately with two Ukrainian-born New York City cab kingpins known for their run-ins with the law. His first partner, Simon Garber, has a long rap sheet that included charges for filing a false police report, trespassing and driving while intoxicated, according to the New York Observer. Garber’s company, Yellow Cab SLSJET Management Corp., was once fined $1.6 million by the New York state attorney general for illegally charging drivers “late fees.” Then there’s Evgeny “Gene” Freidman, also known as “The Taxi King,” who’s been accused of sexual harassment and owed some $13 million in taxes from his cab business, per the New York Daily News.

It’s unclear exactly how Cohen entered the taxi business and first linked up with Garber. But he’s told the Wall Street Journal that Garber was a legal client of his and that they were partners in the taxi business until the early 2000s, at which point he said he sold Garber his stake in their company, relinquishing control of the operations and fleet. After that Garber continued to manage some of the more than 15 taxi medallion companies owned by Cohen, which had playful names like Smoochie Cab Corp and Lady Laura Hacking Corp.

The arrangement devolved into a legal dispute in 2012 when Garber filed a claim with the American Arbitration Association, accusing Cohen, who’d cited neglected insurance payments from a number of accidents involving SLSJET drivers in abruptly cutting ties with the company, of breaching his contract. Cohen, along with his wife, Laura, and his mother-in-law, Ania Shusterman, went to New York State Supreme Court to try to stay the proceedings, saying the original contract they agreed to with Garber contained no arbitration agreement.

In the claim, Garber charged that Cohen “unilaterally” drafted a second contract that contained arbitration language. He further alleged that Cohen went to his home while he was “travelling on business” and “manipulated” Garber’s wife into signing that second contract. A judge ultimately ruled against the Cohens, and the claim went into private arbitration. It’s unclear how the dispute was resolved.

Cohen had been pulling in more than $1 million per year from the medallions Garber managed, arbitration documents showed.

After that messy business breakup, Freidman assumed control of those 15 medallion companies on Cohen’s behalf. In a February phone conversation with TPM, a nervous-sounding Freidman confirmed that he’d been managing medallions for Cohen for more than 16 years, including some in Chicago. While emphasizing that he didn’t want to comment on such a “hot issue,” he heaped praise on his longtime friend, saying the two “talk daily sometimes.”

“I keep up a relationship with him,” Freidman said before rushing off the phone. “I help him out as much as I can. I also have a business relationship but we’re friends, you know. We have dinner with his wife.”

Casino boat venture gone bust

In 2003, Cohen teamed up with Ukrainian partners Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vaygensberg to launch Atlantic Casino, a gambling boat company based in south Florida. Cohen was a shareholder and director of two companies that controlled the casino boat, MLA Cruises and Majesty Enterprises, according to state business records.

Cohen put up $1.5 million for his 30 percent stake in the casino boat, which ran successfully for months before suddenly going bust, leaving a long trail of unpaid vendors and marina fees in its wake.

The casino boat project was ultimately subject to at least 25 Florida lawsuits, according to a thorough investigation by BuzzFeed News, although Cohen himself was not listed as a defendant in any of those suits. Those owed money received much less than they were due, while some judgments against the company went unheeded entirely, according to the investigation.

Cohen told BuzzFeed that, as a “silent partner,” he was unaware of some of the lawsuits and lamented the $1.5 million loss on a botched investment.

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