The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Chattanooga real estate developer and top Trump donor, Franklin Haney, agreed to pay then-President Donald J. Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen $10 million for his help in obtaining funding to finish the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Alabama.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen’s consulting deal with Haney in April could have been among the most lucrative deal struck by the President’s former personal attorney. Following Trump’s election, Cohen was busy using his close relationship with the new President in order to land millions in consulting contracts for himself from a variety of interests seeking influence with the new administration.
Haney allegedly sought Cohen’s help to obtain funding for his nuclear-power plant in Jackson County, including a $5 billion loan from the U.S. government’s Department of Energy.
The WSJ writers claim that they have learned this from “people familiar with the matter.”
Haney, who made his fortune in real estate, purchased the unfinished nuclear power plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2016 and has been busy trying to obtain the funding to get the nuclear power plant up and running. He has a November deadline to complete the deal.
“One of the primary things that’s going on is there’s a Department of Energy Loan Guarantee Program,” state Senator Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) told WHNT Channel 19 TV. “Mr. Haney has qualified at this point in time for initially roughly a half of that $13 billion. So that’s important for the fact that it will take money to make sure this plant is up and operative.
“We’ve got some state incentives that we’d like to offer him at some point in time, but we’re kind of waiting to see on the other side of what happens in DC,” Sen. Livingston added.
In April Sen. Livingston said that he was optimistic that Haney could get the federal tax dollars in order to complete the plant. If the Wall Street Journal reporting is accurate, this could get a lot more complicated.
The Bellefonte project has been endorsed by both Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville).
Since April, Cohen has fallen out of favor with the Trump Administration.
Cohen is reportedly being investigated by the New York State Attorney General’s office and special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Mueller is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives in the 2016 election. Cohen has also allegedly arranged payoffs to women from past marital indiscretions by Trump including porn star Stormy Daniels and a Playboy Playmate. Mueller has also been investigating that matter even though it is outside of his original mandate.
In April the FBI raided Cohen’s offices and home reportedly seeking evidence of bank fraud and campaign violations. If Cohen is indicted for violating New York state law, then President Trump can’t pardon him.
Michael Cohen is reportedly negotiating an immunity deal in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors. It has been revealed that Cohen has secret recordings of the President, even though this could be a violation of attorney client privilege. The President’s defenders have denounced Cohen as a liar. It has been suggested by some in the media that Cohen has knowledge that Trump knew that his Campaign Manager Paul Manafort, son Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law Jared Kushner were meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Russian government in 2016.
Manafort is currently on trial for tax fraud.
It is not known at this time what, if any, interest that Special Prosecutor Mueller might have with Haney and Bellefonte.
President Trump is calling for ending the Robert Mueller investigation.
In addition to being a generous donor to Trump, Haney also contributed to former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R). Perhaps coincidentally, Haney was seeking special incentives for his nuclear plant from the state of Alabama.
Bentley recently testified in court that Haney was a large contributor toe Bentley’s dark money charity, the Alabama Council on Excellence in Government (ACEGOV). ACEGOV paid Rebekah Caldwell Mason to assist Bentley while he was governor. Mason was alleged to be Bentley’s mistress.
It is not known if any of these recent revelations will negatively affect Haney’s efforts to get government assistance to complete the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant.
(Original reporting by Michael Rothfeld, Rebecca Ballhaus and Joe Palazzolo with the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, WHNT Channel 19, the Alabama Media Group and CNN contributed to this report.)