Michael Cohen is just the latest high profile member of the Republican National Committee’s fundraising operation to find himself in the spotlight for significant controversies.
President Trump’s longtime personal attorney found himself at the center of an FBI raid Monday when federal authorities, using search warrants partially obtained by a referral from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, conducted a series of raids to seize documents from Cohen, which his lawyer described as “privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients.”
The raid, which incensed President Trump to the point that he declined to rule out firing Mueller, not only shined the spotlight on yet another Trump associate who is possibly under investigation, but, also puts it, indirectly at least, on the Republican National Committee. Cohen is also the deputy finance chairman of the RNC, which is responsible for the bulk of its fundraising operations – and is the third member of the committee, including the former chairmen – to have come under severe scrutiny in nearly as many months.
In January, casino mogul Steve Wynn, who was then chairmen of the committee, announced his resignation after the Wall Street Journal published an explosive report detailing decades worth of sexual misconduct allegations, including a $7.5 million settlement between Wynn and a former manicurist at one of his properties, who said he had forced her to have sex with him.
And in March, the New York Times reported that Elliot Broidy, who, like Cohen, serves as Deputy Finance Chairman of the RNC, is under scrutiny for using his access to Trump to advocate for softer policies towards Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in an order to procure lucrative contracts for his contracting company. The Times also reported that month that Broidy used his access to Trump as marketing fodder for his clients, offering favors like a trip to the President’s Mar-A-Lago resort and tickets to V.I.P inauguration events.
Although Wynn announced his resignation a day after the report was published, the RNC has yet to return the hundreds of thousands of dollars it received from him since the 2016 election cycle. And both Broidy and Cohen remain in their positions as of Tuesday.
“It just looks terrible. He’s being investigated, you know, the threshold is pretty high for alleged crime. He hasn’t been charged with anything but I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” said Richard Painter, who served as White House ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, of Cohen remaining on the committee. “It doesn’t help the party at all to have people under investigation [on the committee].”
The RNC, Broidy, and Cohen did not respond to requests for comment. But these revelations also come as the RNC continues to smash fundraising records. In February alone, the organization raised $12.8 million, the most it has ever raised in February of a non-presidential year. The RNC also continues to benefit from its relationship with President Trump’s businesses; it is holding its spring meeting at Trump National Doral, and spent a little over $271,000 at the properties owned by the Trump Organization in February, according to filings from the Federal Election Commission. Over $205,000 was spent at the the Trump National Doral in Miami, Florida, and $65,000 was spent at the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C.
Given this relationship, and the fact that the President was so angry by the news of the raid, one GOP source familiar with the workings of the RNC Finance Committee posited it is unlikely Cohen’s role on the committee will change anytime soon. The source highlighted Cohen’s fundraising prowess, but noted that Cohen himself may not even care one way or another what happens.
“I can’t imagine the RNC punishing a guy who seems to be in the crosshairs of the special counsel’s office because of his client,” said the source. “Punishing him because of his client doesn’t seem to be an effective way to go.”