- The Washington Times
Tuesday, May 21, 2019

President Trump’s former attorney and real estate adviser has told Congress he isn’t aware of any Russian money ever coming into Trump Organization as investments or loans.

Michael Cohen’s testimony came after Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrat, in February announced a broad probe by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence into Mr. Trump’s and his family’s finances, with an eye toward Moscow.

Mr. Schiff said, “The President’s actions and posture towards Russia during the campaign, transition, and administration have only heightened fears of foreign financial or other leverage over President Trump.”

Mr. Schiff, committee chairman, released transcripts on Monday of Mr. Cohen’s two days of testimony in February and March.

On Russia, his testimony didn’t appear to help Mr. Schiff.

Since the early 2000s, Mr. Cohen was intimately involved in Trump Organization real estate decisions as one of a handful of executives and Trump family members inside Trump Tower on 5th Avenue.

Mr. Cohen has since split with the president, providing evidence to New York state and federal prosecutors. This month, he began serving a three-year prison term for tax and campaign finance fraud.

Democrats are eager to show that Mr. Trump is beholden to Russians financially. Without evidence, Joe Lockhart, Bill Clinton’s press secretary, said on CNN that Russians bailed out Mr. Trump in the 1990s. There have been no public reports of such an arrangement.

There was no evidence of Russian-Trump money in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 488-page report which found no Moscow conspiracy by Trump associates.

At Mr. Cohen’s close testimony, Rep. John Ratcliffe, Texas Republican, asked, “Does Donald Trump have any financial investments or interests in Russian banks?”

“I’m not aware,” Mr. Cohen answered.

“[Did] the Trump Organization ever receive personal or business loans from a Russian bank or from individuals connected with the Russian Government?”

“I’m not aware,” Mr. Cohen answered.

Mr. Ratcliffe also asked, “To the best of your knowledge, has anyone connected to the Trump campaign or transition team failed to report or sought to obscure any financial relationships with Russians or Russian banks?”

Mr. Cohen said, “l’m still not aware.”

Committee members probed whether Mr. Trump’s collection of private golf courses and clubs around the world was financed with Russian money.

Mr. Cohen said no, explaining how his former boss structures such deals:

“Now, I don’t think you’re going to find Russian money in order to do these golf courses because he didn’t pay a lot for the properties. And then what he does is he creates the golf course and then sells memberships. And a membership, say, $50,000, but he’ll sell 500 of them, and that more than pays for the entire golf course, plus what he spent in terms of building the clubhouse.

“And then basically, you know, they foot the bill by the monthly chit that they’re required to pay, whether it’s with food or with their membership. So it’s not as if you need Russian money in order to pull something like that.”

Finally, he was asked “are there any foreign investors in the Trump Organization?”

He answered, “I don’t believe so.”

Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea to campaign finance violations involved paying hush money during the election to two women who say they had sexual relations with Mr. Trump. The candidate provided the money.

The payments weren’t disclosed on the campaign’s Federal Election Commission reports.

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