According to those sources and public statements, Cohen was questioned about a donor to the president’s inaugural committee, Imaad Zuberi, who is a political fundraiser with a history of donating to both Republican and Democratic candidates.
The New York Times first reported the discussions, which sources confirm occurred in January, on Friday evening. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.
Lanny Davis, an attorney and spokesperson for Cohen, said in a statement to NBC News: “We cannot comment on any matters that are still under investigation by the Special Counsel or the prosecutors in the Southern District of New York.”
However, Davis added, “I can say that Mr. Cohen is interested in cooperating with and assisting the SDNY team in any way they believe is helpful.”
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An inaugural committee spokesperson declined to comment.
The White House referred questions to the Trump Organization, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Zuberi has previously been mentioned in reports surrounding the investigation into the Trump Inaugural Committee. His spokesperson has previously told the Washington Post that Zuberi’s funds did not come from a foreign donor and that the money he gave was his own.
Friday's revelations have to do with a proposed consulting agreement between Cohen and Zuberi, an agreement Zuberi’s spokesperson said was never completed.
Steve Rabinowitz, a spokesman for Zuberi, said his client “received what I would call a speculative contract from Cohen to consult on a new, small private New York real estate fund they had spoken briefly of, but that never came to be.”
Rabinowitz said his client issued a check to Cohen as part of initiating the agreement and said Zuberi recently searched his records and found a $100,000 handwritten check to Cohen that was issued in February 2017.
“The check was never cashed and by March [of 2017], Cohen and Zuberi would not speak again,” he said.
“Imaad [Zuberi] did not pursue Cohen; it was the other way around," Rabinowitz said. "And their would-be relationship fell apart when Zuberi didn’t sign the contract, not when Cohen didn’t cash the check. And how could he? They didn’t have a deal.”
Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018 to the charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York — six counts related to his personal finances and two related to campaign finance violations involving hush money payments to two women who said they had affairs with Trump.
Federal law allows prosecutors to seek a reduction in a jail sentence post-conviction and even post-sentencing for cooperation in an ongoing investigation.
A public court filing from prosecutors indicating that Cohen is cooperating or indicating that they seek a reduction in his sentence has not been made, and there’s no indication that there’s a formal agreement.
Cohen is expected to testify before several committees of Congress next week.
Tom Winter is a New York-based correspondent covering crime, courts, terrorism, and financial fraud on the East Coast for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Ken Dilanian is a correspondent covering intelligence and national security for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Jonathan Dienst is a reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, leading its investigative reporting team and covering justice and law enforcement issues.