A Democratic senator wants more information about efforts by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s embattled former attorney who recently pleaded guilty to committing multiple felonies, to get the Department of Energy (DOE) to approve a huge nuclear loan application for one of his clients.
Franklin Haney, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural fund, reportedly hired Cohen to secure a $5 billion loan guarantee from DOE. Haney agreed to pay Cohen $10 million if he succeeded in getting the department to approve the loan guarantee.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) sent a letter on Tuesday to Energy Secretary Rick Perry asking him for more information on how the agency is evaluating the loan application. She wants the department to provide a list of DOE political appointees, career employees, and contractors who had contact with Cohen or Haney — or representatives of either — in regard to the loan application for the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant project in Alabama.
Duckworth is also seeking all memorandums, meeting notes, emails, and any other records related to Haney’s loan application and communications with Cohen.
“This unseemly pay-to-play arrangement raises serious questions of conflict-of-interest, corrupt practices, and potential violations of lobbying disclosure laws,” Duckworth wrote in her letter to Perry.
Haney, a Tennessee real-estate mogul who owns the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant site in Alabama, reached the agreement with Cohen just days before federal agents raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
The Wall Street Journal article noted that Cohen lobbied several DOE officials to support Haney’s loan application and speed up the review process, even though public records show that Cohen has never registered as a lobbyist.
Duckworth said she is requesting the documents to help her office better understand how the DOE is evaluating Haney’s loan application. In her letter, she asked Perry for a “prompt and thorough response” to the document requests.
Duckworth is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has congressional oversight jurisdiction over DOE the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Earlier this year, Duckworth introduced legislation to protect whistleblowers who are employed by DOE and the NRC. Currently, DOE and NRC whistleblowers are at risk of retaliation, even when they report critical public safety concerns, because of administrative law rulings that allow the two agencies to dismiss any whistleblower claim brought against them under the Energy Reorganization Act’s employee protection authorities.
Earlier this month The Wall Street Journal also reported that Haney agreed to pay Cohen a monthly retainer for his work on behalf of the nuclear plant. The loan application submitted by Haney’s company, Nuclear Development LLC, is still pending at DOE.
In 2016, Nuclear Development entered into a contract to purchase the partially completed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) at auction for $111 million and invest up to an additional $13 billion to complete construction of the nuclear energy facility.
The site includes two partially constructed nuclear reactors, which are 55-percent completed, two high-voltage switchyards, reinforced containment buildings, and used fuel storage pools and high capacity cranes for fuel loading.
Along with potential conflicts of interest in his dealings with the DOE, Cohen this month pleaded guilty to eight total counts, including five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution, and another count of “willful cause of unlawful corporate contribution” — as well as a count of “excessive campaign contribution.”
Cohen also detailed how he violated federal campaign finance laws by arranging a series of payments to both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal in the lead-up to the election. The candidate who, according to Cohen, helped cover the payments is technically unnamed, but it’s clear who it is: Donald Trump.
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal authorities are also currently investigating whether Cohen engaged in unregistered lobbying in connection with his consulting work for corporate clients after Trump entered the White House. It is unclear if the deal with Haney’s Nuclear Development LLC is part of the investigation into Cohen’s consulting work or if it will be incorporated into the investigation.