(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen has resigned from the Republican National Committee, people familiar with the matter said, making him the third high-ranking member of the GOP’s top fundraising arm to leave under a cloud this year.
Cohen, who was vice chairman of the RNC Finance Committee, has been inactive on the committee for several months and Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel has accepted his resignation, an RNC official said. Two other people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about his departure, also said that he’d stepped down.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by federal authorities in Manhattan over a wide range of his business activities, including a $130,000 payment to adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford to buy her silence before the 2016 election about an alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier.
Other high-profile RNC departures include former chairman and casino magnate Steve Wynn, who resigned in January after reports that he had engaged in multiple instances of sexual harassment. Elliot Broidy left his post as national deputy finance chairman in April after press reports that he, with Cohen’s legal assistance, paid $1.6 million to a Playboy model who had an abortion after their extramarital affair ended.
Despite the turmoil, donors have poured money into the RNC’s coffers at a record pace for a mid-term election cycle. The Republicans’ hold on the presidency and Congress has helped the organization surpass its Democratic counterpart in every month reported so far this year. Through April, it has taken in $184.5 million and has $43.8 million in the bank, compared to $95.6 million raised and $8.7 million cash on hand for the Democratic National Committee.
Both parties are due to report their May fundraising numbers Wednesday.
The national party committees play a much bigger role in presidential election years than mid-terms. In the 2016 election cycle, the RNC raised $343.4 million, while the DNC took in $354.6 million.
The federal probe into Cohen’s financial dealings became public in April when investigators executed an early-morning raid on his office, home and hotel room. Since then, lawyers for Cohen and for Trump have been trying to block prosecutors from seeing some of the 3 million seized items, claiming they’re privileged.
Cohen is parting ways with his lawyers and is expected to hire a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced with the Manhattan prosecutors.
Among Cohen’s business troubles is a taxi-medallion concern that has declined in value. One of his associates in that business is cooperating with authorities putting together a case against Cohen. Also under scrutiny are consulting agreements Cohen had with Novartis AG, AT&T Inc. and other companies to provide his insights into the Trump administration. Novartis paid him $1.2 million over 12 months starting in February 2017, while AT&T paid him $600,000.
Novartis said it determined early on that Cohen wasn’t going to be able to help with health-care policy matters, but continued to make payments until the contract expired because it couldn’t be terminated for cause. AT&T said Cohen’s firm, Essential Consultants, did no legal or lobbying work for it.
Cohen is also a defendant, along with Trump, in a federal civil suit arising out of the payment to Clifford, whose stage name is Stormy Daniels. Clifford is seeking to get out of a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that bars her from talking about her relationship with Trump more than a decade ago.
That suit has been temporarily stayed because of the criminal investigation of Cohen.
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