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Judicial Watch Files Lawsuit Against US Energy Department

Judicial Watch Sues Energy Department for Documents on Controversial Lobbying Deal by Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen.

Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Energy for all records of communications relating to Michael Cohen and the application for a $5 billion federal loan guarantee for the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Energy (No. 1:18-cv-02208)). Cohen, who was reportedly offered a $10 million “success fee” and paid a monthly retainer for his efforts on behalf of the Alabama nuclear-power project, never registered as a federal lobbyist.

The suit was filed after the Department of Energy failed to respond to an August 22, 2018, FOIA request for:

  • All records of communications between the Department of Energy (DOE), including oral communications, and Michael Cohen relating to the loan application for the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant.
  • All records of communications between the DOE and Michael Cohen in relation to any other loan application.
  • A copy of and all records related to the application of Nuclear Development, LLC for a loan application relating to the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama.
  • A full and complete copy of DOE’s response to an August 9, 2018, letter to Secretary Perry from Senator Ed Markey regarding Franklin Haney, Nuclear Development, LLC, and Michael Cohen.

On August 2, 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Franklin D. Haney, “a major donor to President Trump agreed to pay $10 million to the president’s then-personal attorney [Michael Cohen] if he successfully helped obtain funding for a nuclear-power project, including a $5 billion loan from the U.S. government …” The contract reportedly was given to Cohen “in early April to assist his efforts to complete a pair of unfinished nuclear reactors in Alabama, known as the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant …”

On August 10, 2018, the Washington Examiner reported that “Cohen was also given a retainer payment for each month of lobbying on top of the $10 million ‘success fee’ for gaining final approval of a $5 billion loan guarantee from the Energy Department.” Adding that he “had made calls in the spring to the Energy Department to see if there was any way to speed up the approval process.” The agreement between Haney and Cohen later was reportedly withdrawn, however Cohen never registered as a federal lobbyist.”

“Mr. Cohen may have broken basic lobbying disclosure and other laws in setting up a deal to advocate for a loan guarantee from the Energy Department,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is disappointing the Energy Department is giving us the run around on this request, forcing Judicial Watch to go to federal court.”

On August 29, 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight total counts that included bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance law violations.

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