Trump lawyer Cohen sought US$1 million from Qatar in late 2016: Washington Post

Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for US President Donald Trump, exits the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City on May 11, 2018.
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for US President Donald Trump, exits the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City on May 11, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen asked the Qatari government for at least US$1 million (S$1.3 million) in December 2016 in exchange for access or insight into the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported.

Qatar turned down Cohen's offer, made weeks before Trump's inauguration, the Post reported late on Wednesday (May 16), citing several people with knowledge of the situation.

A spokesman for Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at the time was head of the investments division of Qatar's sovereign wealth fund, confirmed Cohen had requested a US$1 million fee.

But the spokesman, Robert Siegfried, said the request related to the possibility of advising Qatar on investments in US infrastructure, and that at no point was access to the administration discussed.

"The conversation was regarding infrastructure investment in the US," he said. "At no point did Mr Al-Rumaihi or anyone else from Qatar Investments pay the requested fee, nor did Mr Al-Rumaihi ever entertain making such a payment."

Cohen's attorney Stephen Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.

Al-Rumaihi told the Post that Cohen made the solicitation in early December at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, an account Siegfried confirmed.

They later spoke again outside a meeting in Trump Tower in New York on Dec 12, 2016, where al-Rumaihi was part of a Qatari delegation that included Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed al-Thani, the Post reported.

The solicitation would be the latest such exchange offered by Cohen to be made public following acknowledgements by US and European companies last week that they paid Cohen, who was Trump's lawyer for about a decade and self-described "fixer" for Trump.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG said it had paid Cohen nearly US$1.2 million; US telecommunications company AT&T Inc said it made payments of US$600,000; and South Korea's Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd said it hired him for US$150,000.

Novartis and AT&T have said they were contacted by the office of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the situation in late 2017.

Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia, something that Trump has repeatedly denied.

At the same time, prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations linked to a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, and perhaps other matters related to Trump's presidential campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said.