No matter their claims of total exoneration in the Russia scandal, President Donald Trump and the GOP continue to face tough scrutiny of their foreign ties. Former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen now claims to have evidence of possible illegal, corrupting foreign influence spreading into the Republican Party as a whole, which he claims possibly illegally accepted donations from Chinese citizens. As has come up in connection to a number of other foreign influence scandals connected to Trump — it’s illegal for a foreign citizen to financially participate in American elections.
Cohen’s claim that the Republican National Committee ran afoul of this legislation came via material his legal team sent to four House Democratic chairpersons this past Thursday, asking them to intervene on his behalf before he starts what’s set to be a three-year jail sentence on May 6. Cohen wants to be at least temporarily let off the hook in light of his continued cooperation with investigative authorities, which he offered to continue via a Thursday letter via a hard drive he recently “found” containing some 14 million files from the last ten years that Congressional investigators could find relevant.
Just one sentence in a 12-page memo of Cohen’s relevant knowledge and information covered those possible illegal foreign donations, claiming the former lawyer has knowledge of “possible federal campaign finance violations by the Republican National Committee, including possibly illegal conduiting of illegal substantial donations to the RNC by foreign nationals, including from China.” Cohen is actually in a good position to have this knowledge, having served as a deputy finance chair for the RNC for about a year ending in early 2018.
Previous reporting has touched on the specific Cohen claim, covering concern that Chinese nationals funneled money through straw donors to Republicans at a particular December 2017 fundraiser for the president and Republicans at-large, and federal investigators in New York are looking into the matter. Their concern stretches beyond China, though, including the possibility that foreign nationals illegally funneled money even to Trump’s inaugural committee, which they’ve subpoenaed records from.
There’s been at least one more major front of concern about foreign money illegally flowing into domestic GOP interests too — federal investigators have reportedly examined the possibility that the National Rifle Association (NRA) illegally took in Russian money. The organization closely palled around with revealed Russian spy Maria Butina and Kremlin official Alexander Torshin for years.
Besides these areas of concern, Trump and the GOP continue to face more scrutiny, which the material Cohen’s legal team sent Congress this past week touches on. They outline, for instance, the lawyer’s claim of having been pressured by Trump into lying to Congress about the scope of their efforts to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow, lies which Cohen is at least presently set to go to prison for. Cohen says that before his original testimony, Trump “encouraged him to lie by repeating claims they both knew to be false” and that after the testimony, “one of Trump’s attorneys congratulated Cohen on his testimony and said his client was happy with it.”
Although it’s certainly true that House Democrats continue to pursue lines of investigation into Trump — including covering his Russia ties, which the former lawyer says he has information on — it’s unclear what steps they might be willing to take in response to Cohen’s letter.
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