Another thread has come unraveled surrounding President Trump’s embattled personal lawyer Michel Cohen’s efforts to get rich by peddling his influence with the White House in the year and a half after the inaugural.
Cohen is already under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations, among other possible charges, mostly related to his efforts to build a rich consulting practice by peddling his influence with the president.
Cohen’s clients who paid him huge sums for his advice and connections include AT&T, Novartis Pharmaceuticals and an investment firm linked to a shady Russsian oligarch.
One potential client that was not seduced by Cohen’s pitch was the kingdom of Qatar, the oil and natural gas-rich Middle Eastern country that is currently locked in a nasty struggle with its neighbors including Saudi Arabia and Egypt which accuse it of supporting terrorism.
Although Qatar declined to sign on the dotted line, apparently Cohen did establish enough of a connection to be able to arrange a meeting for another potential business deal, with the owner of an unfinished nuclear plant looking for billions in financing.
On April 5, only days before the FBI would raid Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in a sweep for documents related to deals he made with adult film star Stormy Daniels as well as records of his consulting and legal practice, Trump’s personal attorney accompanied Franklin Haney to a meeting in Miami with Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani (“Al Thani”).
Al Thani was in town for the Qatar-U.S. Economic Forum, a conference about Qatar business, and was looking for new ways to invest his $300 billion sovereign wealth fund for the Persian Gulf state.
Haney, a 77-years-old Tennessee native, was there to discuss an inoperative nuclear power plant he owned in Hollywood, Alabama that he needed about $13 billion to turn into a working power plant.
Haney, who had come to South Florida on his $50 million yacht, had paid $111 million for the partially completed plant that was started in 1975, shut down in 1988 and never finished and was facing a 2021 deadline to get it operative before he would lose billions in government loans and the permit he needed to operate the plant.
Haney may well have turned to Cohen because he was going to need a lot of help in Washington to deal with the Energy Department, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the TVA and other government entities.
Haney, who in the past was a Democrat (making huge contributions to President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s campaigns), began contributing heavily to Republicans after Trump was elected, and had donated about $1 million for Trump’s inauguration.
Bloomberg News reported in June 2017 that Haney “has dined at least a dozen times with Trump since the election,” and “is a member of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Florida.”
It is unclear if any deal was done that day in Miami but it seems unlikely.
What is clear is that Cohen requested the meeting and would have made a commission if there was a transaction completed by the parties.
The Miami meeting also came a week before Trump met in the Oval Office with Al Thani to discuss the 2017 blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and others, which Trump had endorsed and supported.
“During this White House meeting,” reports Mother Jones, “in a sharp reversal, Trump praised the emir for cracking down on terror funding.”
Whether Cohen had any influence on Trump’s reversal is unclear but since then Qatar and the U.S. have found other common ground and Qatar has made a huge real estate loan to the family business of Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
All of these entanglements are now under the microscope of investigators in the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney in New York, among others.
In an administration known for its sleazy, unethical dealings, Cohen stands out for the brazenness of his actions and the magnitude of his financial dealings, all of which may now lead back to Trump or others.
When you put a desperate nuclear power plant owner together with a desperate Persian Gulf state and a calculating lawyer working for an unethical president, there has to be much for investigators to mull over.