A California man who says he served as a translator last year for Michael Cohen and a South Korean aerospace firm that paid Cohen’s company $150,000 said Tuesday that FBI agents recently interviewed him.
Mark Ko said in an email to The Washington Post that he spoke with the FBI about the arrangement “a few weeks ago.” Ko declined to provide details about investigators’ inquiries and said he was unsure whether the agents were part of the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller III.
Ko’s statement is the first indication that federal authorities are examining Cohen’s contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) – one of several companies with substantial business before the U.S. government that hired Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and longtime legal fixer, after the 2016 election.
It also suggests the investigation into the payments has continued into recent weeks. Novartis and AT&T, which paid Cohen’s company $1.2 million and $600,000, respectively, have said they were contacted late last year by law enforcement officials working with Mueller, who is probing alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Since the payments came to light last week, Novartis and AT&T expressed regret and acknowledged that they hired Cohen’s company, Essential Consultants, because of his access to the Trump administration.
KAI, by contrast, has defended its decision to hire Cohen’s company. A spokesman, Oh Sung-keun, said last week that the firm did not know of Cohen’s connection to Trump when it hired Essential Consultants, which Cohen set up shortly before Trump was elected.
Oh said the firm paid Cohen’s company for legal advice related to U.S. accounting procedures, including bookkeeping rules required under government contracts.
Cohen has no known experience in government accounting. A former personal injury attorney from Long Island, he was a real estate attorney and self-described fixer for the Trump Organization for 10 years before striking out on his own in January 2017.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.
KAI, whose majority owner is the South Korean government, is partnered with U.S.-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin in vying for a major contract to provide the U.S. Air Force with trainer jets. The contract could be worth more than $16 billion.
KAI has said the payment to Cohen’s company was not related to the bid for the trainer jet contract or another maintenance contract, worth up to $48.8 million, that it won from the U.S. Air Force in October. The firm has said its November payment to Essential Consultants marked the end of a relationship that lasted less than six months.
A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the Department of Justice. A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin said it first learned of KAI’s contract with Cohen’s company when it came to light last week and had not been contacted by federal investigators.
Ko told The Post that his role in the business arrangement with KAI was minor, but he declined to say how he got involved. Ko runs a firm in Los Angeles called …read more
Source:: The Denver Post – Politics