Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Unexplored Russia Connections
Michael Cohen, Trump Tower_Entrance With the FBI raid on Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, everyone is scrambling for explanations. But as WhoWhatWhy reported last year, Michael Cohen’s background has long demanded close scrutiny. He came out of nowhere, backed by Russia-connected figures, and bought his way into Donald Trump’s heart.
Here’s the full story as it appeared on September 18, 2017.
Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn … all members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle — past and present — have been scrutinized by the media, and their various Russia ties are being investigated by the press and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. One figure, however, managed to fly largely under the radar until very recently: Michael Cohen, Trump’s former right-hand man and in-house attorney.
Cohen, who came out of nowhere to occupy a prominent spot in Trump’s orbit, has his own unique links to Russia and Ukraine. In fact, he might be one of the missing links that ties the president to shady figures and shady money from the former Soviet Union (familiarly known as FSU).
After months of speculation, he will finally be subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee to testify under oath, as the Committee says he has broken an agreement by communication with media outlets.
But the following story should help. It lays bare, in documented detail, Cohen’s dealings, his ties to the FSU, and how he could trigger a world of trouble for the president if he ever decided to reveal what he knows about Trump’s business empire.
Among the points illustrated below:
— Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, two key figures in Trump’s businesses in recent years, both have backgrounds tied to the FSU
— Both men knew each other; both began entering Trump’s orbit around the same time with money that may have come from FSU sources — and in a period when Trump came to increasingly depend on such monies
— Putin appears to have launched a full-court press on the United States in this time frame through surrogates, and eventually took an interest in Trump as someone who could help advance Russian interests
— Both Cohen and Sater showed up recently as intermediaries to Trump on behalf of pro-Putin policy initiatives
— While Trump has a history of sticking with supporters, even controversial ones, his loyalty does not extend to Cohen, Sater, Manafort (who managed his campaign for a time) and Flynn, who briefly served as National Security Advisor. What do they all have in common? Ties to Russia. Ties that are part of the public record.
Cohen will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee September 19. He will not be under oath.
While Manafort and Flynn played only specific and short-lived roles with Trump, Cohen has served as confidant, spokesperson and liaison between his boss and powerful foreign agents over the past decade.
Of all the people Trump could have tapped to function as his main man, the lawyer who is always around him, his legal rottweiler, why Michael Cohen?
The story behind Cohen’s pre-Trump connections to an avalanche of dubiously sourced money from the FSU offers a possible explanation — and the tantalizing prospect of new insight into the president’s curious co-dependence with the Kremlin.
The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
As WhoWhatWhy previously reported, the crux of Trump’s relationship with Moscow goes beyond the presidential campaign to prior dealings that were central to his business empire.
Those dealings concern investors and business partners from various parts of the FSU. Tied into this network of influence are Russian President Vladimir Putin, wealthy FSU businessmen (“oligarchs”), and allied members of organized crime. And, improbably, Cohen, Trump’s own attorney.
Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump at the 2017 G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Photo credit: President of Russia / Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0)
Enter Cohen, the Ultimate Groupie
In 2007, the little-known Cohen suddenly became visible in the Trump camp. Positioned close to the throne, he became executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump.
Cohen told a reporter that he first got hooked on Trump after reading his book, The Art of the Deal, twice, cover to cover. If so, he is the ultimate groupie.
“Over the years I have been offered very lucrative employment opportunities, which I summarily dismissed,” he said. “To those of us who are close to Mr. Trump, he is more than our boss. He is our patriarch.”
Indeed, Cohen has a reputation for being a kind of Trump Mini-Me. In July 2015, he vowed to “mess up” the life of a Daily Beast reporter who brought up the decades-old allegation that Trump assaulted his first wife, Ivana. And he tweeted about his desire to “gut” then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly when she challenged Trump. Cohen’s bravado has earned him comparisons — from Trump Organization colleagues — to Tom Hagen, Vito Corleone’s consigliere in the Godfather movies.
Trump values fiercely protective loyalists, and none has proven more loyal than Michael Cohen.
With the exception of a quixotic run for New York City Council as a Republican in 2003, Cohen had been a lifelong Democrat, voting for Obama in 2008. So it was a quite a change when he decided to formally join the GOP — after Trump’s inauguration.
But neither that switch nor years of devoted service to the Trump Organization could win Cohen a post in the president’s administration, though he had reportedly yearned for and expected to occupy one. And why was that?
Possibly because by the time Trump took office, Cohen’s name had surfaced in headline-grabbing, Russia-related stories — and that is the one kind of publicity from which Trump has tried to distance himself.
Cohen and the Dossier
To begin with, the name “Michael Cohen” showed up in the controversial “dossier” put together last year by a former UK foreign intelligence officer doing private research on Russia connections for Trump opponents. The 35-page collection of memos, published in its entirety by Buzzfeed, comprises precise but unverified documentation of continuous contact between Trump associates and Russian operatives during the presidential campaign.
Cohen’s name appeared on page 18 of the dossier, which claimed that he met with Kremlin representatives in Prague last August to conduct damage control on a pair of “western media revelations”: Manafort’s “corrupt relationship” with Ukrainian President Yanukovych and campaign adviser Carter Page’s meeting with “senior regime figures” in Moscow a month earlier.
Cohen has forcefully rejected the notion that he was the man referenced in the dossier. To prove this, he made public his own passport stamps, which indicate he could not have been in the Czech Republic last August.
Shortly after the inauguration, Cohen’s name was in the news again, this time for meeting in late January with a Moscow-connected Ukrainian politician, and in this case his involvement is not in dispute. The Ukrainian had come bearing a “peace agreement” intended to lift punishing economic sanctions that had been imposed on Russia after Putin’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Cohen, Felix Sater, and the Russians
Cohen purportedly attended the meeting at the urging of Felix Sater, a one-time mob-connected businessman who went on to work with Trump, and about whom WhoWhatWhy has written extensively.
According to The New York Times, as a result of that meeting, Cohen joined other Trump associates already under scrutiny in the FBI’s counterintelligence inquiry related to Russia.
Why was Cohen even in a meeting about US foreign policy at all? As Cohen himself noted, his role as “special counsel” with Trump was limited to representing Trump personally, not as president.
Since the January meeting, Cohen has become even more ghostlike, and his boss has remained conspicuously quiet as Cohen landed in the crosshairs of both the media and Mueller’s investigative unit — two entities Trump hasn’t been shy about lambasting. Though he retains his official title as the president’s personal advisor and attorney, Cohen appears to have been exiled from Trump’s inner circle. Neither the White House Press Office nor the Trump Organization responded to WhoWhatWhy’s inquiry about Cohen’s current role in the Trump orbit.
Trump is not one to banish someone just because he or she is run-of-the-mill controversial. Witness such highly polarizing, risky figures as Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka and Stephen Miller who, though relative latecomers to the Trump camp, were kept on long after they were political liabilities, albeit popular with his ever-shrinking base. (And Miller is still on board.)
So why does Michael Cohen’s fate resemble that of Manafort and Flynn, who were ditched when their Russia-related activities drew unwelcome national attention?
In the Spotlight
This spring, when it became apparent that members of Congress might wish to question him, the typically brash Cohen declared that he would only testify if he received a subpoena. Today, the Senate Intelligence Committee has decided to issue a subpoena to call him to testify before them under oath after he broke an agreement not to speak to the media.
Compared to some others in Trump’s entourage, he is largely unknown to the public. Notwithstanding those brief moments in the limelight, the media overall (with a few notable exceptions including Talking Points Memo and Buzzfeed) has devoted little attention to him.
But a new development thrust Cohen back into the limelight Monday, when the Washington Post reported that Cohen and Sater had worked together closely in the early months of Trump’s presidential campaign on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
At Sater’s suggestion, Cohen had emailed Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s personal spokesperson, to solicit the Kremlin’s approval of the lucrative project while Trump, stumping on the campaign trail, was lavishing the Russian president with praise at debates and rallies. The real estate deal, Sater suggested in a string of emails to Cohen, would be a win-win: Trump would look like a great negotiator, and Putin would be boosting the prospects of the candidate he preferred.
“Buddy our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Sater wrote to Cohen. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected.”
The tower never materialized, but their “boy,” of course, did ascend to the presidency. And the Trump Organization renewed ownership of the TrumpTowerMoscow.com domain this July — before the latest controversy, though it has since gone dark.
Cohen’s Own Ukrainian Connections
The son of a Long Island physician, Michael Dean Cohen received his law degree from a low-ranked Michigan school, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School — a “diploma mill” according to some, which later rebranded as Western Michigan University. The school, which, like Trump, doesn’t hesitate to sue its critics, has highlighted Cohen as an illustrious alumnus.
Cohen was admitted to the New York Bar in 1992 and became a personal injury lawyer.
He soon began assembling a portfolio of businesses outside the legal profession, virtually all involving Ukrainian immigrants — many of whom were, or became, immensely wealthy.
Perhaps the earliest was a taxi business in partnership with the Ukraine-born Simon Garber, who was at one time involved with a Moscow cab company, and now has huge stakes in cab ownership in New York, Chicago and New Orleans.
By 2003, Cohen and Garber were running more than 200 taxis in New York, allowing Cohen to pull in $90,000 a month in 2011. The partnership imploded in 2012 after a nasty legal dispute, after which Cohen went his own way and entrusted his 15 medallion companies to Evgeny Friedman, a Russian immigrant who holds the single largest collection of medallions in New York.
In partnership with two other Ukrainian immigrants, Cohen went into the casino boat business. His partners, Leonid Tatarchuk and Arkady Vaygensberg, were associated with a man who allegedly had FSU mob ties, and with a lawyer indirectly connected to the late mob legend Meyer Lansky.
The gambling venture was besieged by lawsuits from unhappy workers and investors. Cohen has had other legal problems. He could not explain what had become of $350,000 held in a trust account he managed, according to court documents obtained by Buzzfeed News.
Victory Casino Cruises Victory Casino Cruises. Photo credit: Rusty Clark ~ 100K Photos / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
In 1998 Michael Cohen incorporated two entities: Ukrainian Capital Partners LP and Ukrainian Capital Growth Fund Corp. The Growth Fund was dissolved in 2002, but, according to New York Department of State records, Capital Partners is still active.
Towering Trump Investments
Shortly after the turn of the century, Cohen took a new direction. He began buying — as did his relatives — properties in buildings with the Trump name.
He obtained his first in 2001: a unit in Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza. And he kept on buying.
Some years later, the Trump-friendly New York Post profiled Cohen and his passion for Trump developments in a real-estate-porn article headlined “Upping the Ante.”
Once some buyers go Trump, they never go back. Take Michael Cohen, 40, an attorney and partner at Phillips Nizer. He purchased his first Trump apartment at Trump World Tower at 845 United Nations Plaza in 2001. He was so impressed he convinced his parents, his in-laws and a business partner to buy there, too. Cohen’s in-laws went on [to] purchase two more units there and one at Trump Grande in Sunny Isles, Fla.
Cohen then bought at Trump Palace at 200 E. 69th St., and Trump Park Avenue, where he currently resides. He’s currently in the process of purchasing a two-bedroom unit at Trump Place on Riverside Boulevard – so, naturally, Cohen’s next step is to purchase something at Trump Plaza Jersey City. He’s now in negotiations for a two-bedroom unit there.
“Trump properties are solid investments,” says Cohen, who’s also looking at the new Trump SoHo project.
By the time he entered Trump’s employ, Cohen, his relatives and his business partner had already purchased a combined 11 Trump properties.
Why did Cohen and company begin buying all those Trump properties? Where did the money come from? And did Cohen use this spending spree to gain an entrance into Trump’s inner circle?
The answers to these questions may lie in what at first appears to be a mere coincidence: Around the time Cohen began buying these properties — 2000-2001 — the aforementioned Felix Sater apparently first approached Trump.
It is interesting to learn that when Cohen was growing up, he had known and run in the same circles as Sater when both lived on Long Island.
Sater and Cohen would go on to play intriguingly interconnected roles in the saga linking Donald Trump to vast supplies of dubiously sourced money from the FSU.
Sater’s family immigrated to the US in the 1970s, landing in the Coney Island-Brighton Beach area, a part of Brooklyn heavily populated by Soviet emigres — and an area where the Trump family owned lots of buildings.
In addition to the Trump units, Cohen owns entire buildings around New York City. In 2015, while working for Trump, he bought a $58 million apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. According to the New York real estate news site The Real Deal, Cohen also holds multiple luxury apartment units and other buildings on the Lower East Side and in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan.
Trump buildings Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Rustycale / Wikipedia, Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), Americasroof (talk) / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0), Alex Proimos / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0) and Stepanstas / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).
Cohen has a seemingly limitless appetite for real estate, and his younger brother Bryan, also a lawyer, entered the real estate trade and is now Chief Administrative Officer of DE Development Marketing, part of the prominent Douglas Elliman real estate brokerage.
More Businesses, More Ukrainians
That Cohen buys luxury Trump apartments like others buy shoes — and that he has a seemingly inexhaustible budget — could conceivably be explained, at least in part, by his ties to people who, as noted earlier, became extremely wealthy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
There are any number of perfectly legitimate ways for Cohen to amass the funds necessary to purchase entire buildings. Usually, however, the source of such wealth can be ascertained. In Cohen’s case, the source is unclear— and Cohen refused to discuss the origin of those funds with WhoWhatWhy.
It should be noted that Russians and others from the former Soviet Union seeking to move funds West are among the biggest buyers of New York real estate.
But Cohen’s Ukrainian ties run even deeper. His wife, Laura, is from the Ukraine. So is Bryan Cohen’s wife, Oxana.
From here we follow a trail through a somewhat complicated cast of characters. At the end, you will see how all of these people are connected to one another as well as to Trump — and to Russia.
The trail begins with Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law, Alex Oronov, born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, who emigrated with his family to the United States in 1978. He ran a Manhattan art gallery, and eventually, and surprisingly, managed to convince the old-school communist government to partner with him to sell lithographs based on the collection of the State Russian Museum. His influence or skills of persuasion were so good that he even persuaded Kremlin authorities to permit him to open a gift shop at the museum, a rarity in the USSR.
Following Ukrainian independence in 1994, Oronov spotted a far more lucrative opportunity: Ukraine’s privatized bounty of grain. Ukraine has some of Europe’s largest acreage of arable land — and it is highly fertile and productive, making it the “breadbasket of Europe.”
He founded an agribusiness firm, Harvest Moon (later rebranded as Grain Alliance); Bryan Cohen notes in his own online biography that he served as General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Grain Alliance, Americas. It’s not clear where the funding for the enterprise, which had more than 100,000 acres in production at one point, came from.
The firm seems to have benefited from the lack of strong central authorities in the Ukraine. According to a brochure from a Kiev-based law firm, “Foreign Investment in Ukrainian Agriculture,” prepared for a 2010 seminar on investment, “Grain Alliance… expanded rapidly over the last five years when Ukraine had no control from any government officials.”
In this and similar ventures Oronov, from a modest start, became wildly wealthy, working with a network of well-connected Ukrainian politicians and businessmen with alleged mob ties. One of his partners was Viktor Topolov, a wealthy Ukrainian closely associated with figures the FBI has identified as “well known” members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld. A Ukrainian court document obtained by Buzzfeed reveals that Topolov ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money-laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s.
To follow the Trump money trail further requires a brief dip into Ukraine’s recent history, which turns out to be crucial to Michael Cohen’s story.
Ukraine in Tug of War Between East and West
Starting around 2000, Ukraine increasingly became the subject of a tug of war between the West and Russia. Ukraine was once one of the most valuable parts of the USSR. Since gaining independence in 1991, it has been drawn closer to the West, and has even toyed with the ultimate snub to Russia: joining NATO, the Western military alliance.
The struggle to control Ukraine, its political leaders and its resources, played a major role in Russia’s decision to enter Ukraine militarily in the summer of 2014. This led the West to impose sanctions that have severely harmed Russia’s economy. Putin has made no secret of his desire to get the sanctions lifted.
Also at stake for Russia in its relations with Ukraine is the future of the pipelines that pass through Ukraine, bringing Russian natural gas to Western Europe. Russia is not happy that its lucrative gas exports, the source of much of its foreign exchange, must be transported across the territory of its now-adversary.
Going head to head in the battles to control the future of this resource are sovereign nations, international corporations, shadowy public-private entities, and shady figures like the Ukrainian-born Semion Mogilevich. The reputed “boss of bosses” of organized crime in today’s Russia is believed to be the most powerful mobster in the world. His sub-boss, Vyacheslav Ivankov, was sent to America, and discovered by the FBI living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower, and later, having fled Manhattan, in a Trump casino in Atlantic City.
Mogilevich was identified as the secret majority owner of the Ukrainian stake in a mysterious intermediary company, half-owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom. Ivankov later stated that Mogilevich and Putin were close; soon after, the man was gunned down on a Moscow street.
One beneficiary of the Ukrainian pipeline situation was future Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was paid millions of dollars by prominent players in the natural gas scramble.
While questions swirled about the international ramifications of the pipeline battle, Sater, then an FBI informant, traveled to Ukraine and Russia — ostensibly searching for properties to develop with the Trump Organization.
Alex Oronov Alex Oronov. Photo credit: Facebook / TPM
In the past, Cohen has downplayed his connections to the FSU. In a January 2017 interview with Yahoo News, he averred that he had only been to Ukraine twice — “either 2003 or 2004.” The reason? His “brother’s father-in-law [i.e., Oronov] lives in Kiev.”
However, Cohen seemingly would not have to travel to see his relative. Oronov had homes in the US — including one on Long Island and one at the Trump Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida; he was even registered to vote in Florida.
The Cohens said that they knew nothing about Topolov when they pitched the project. But if they didn’t know the background of Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law’s famous longtime business partner, they’re unusually ill-informed, and certainly failed to do due diligence in a situation well-known to be rife with financial criminals.
Cohen and Sater and Trump….Together
The Trumps themselves have stated that their company came to depend increasingly over the years on monies tied to the FSU. Thus, it would not be illogical to wonder whether Michael Cohen was brought into the Trump Organization because of his ability to help in that regard.
But there’s more here. As mentioned above, Cohen dovetails in interesting ways with another FSU-tied figure who entered Trump’s orbit in roughly the same period: Felix Sater, the one-time mob-connected businessman who worked with Trump in the past, and about whom, as noted earlier, WhoWhatWhy has written extensively. Both bring ostensible ties to people who themselves have links to organized crime, and to those whose interests coincide with those of Vladimir Putin and his oligarchic network.
Take Topolov, with whom Cohen and his brother have done business. Via a conglomerate of his, Topolov employed three executives the FBI have described as members of a violent Russian organized-crime network: one, a mob enforcer closely associated with Mogilevich, the powerful organized crime boss, was reportedly responsible for at least 20 murders.
We previously reported about Mogilevich’s associates’s ties to Trump Tower, dating back to the 1990s. We noted how, from its inception, Trump Tower was a popular place with people having organized crime connections. We noted the various people connected with the FSU, with FSU organized crime, and the ties between those organizations and the Putin regime.
We told the story of Sater, a USSR-born felon who had cut a deal to serve as a confidential source for the FBI in return for leniency after he was caught participating in a major financial fraud with a group of men including one with American organized crime ties.
We explained that tackling FSU influence in Wall Street had become one of the FBI’s highest priorities.
We described how, circa 2001, Sater joined Bayrock, a real estate development company run by FSU emigres in Trump Tower, and eventually began working directly with Donald Trump. Sater and Bayrock were supplying Trump with income during a period when his other investments had been suffering.
The money spigot was apparent to all. In a 2008 deposition, Sater even testified that, upon Trump’s request, he accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on business trips to the FSU. Donald Jr. would later declare that the region had become the family’s main source of investment.
While Sater was moving up in the Trump orbit, Cohen’s status as a mysterious Trump real estate mega-investor of uncertain wealth and an undistinguished legal practice changed, seemingly overnight.
In 2006, the year before he went to work fulltime for Trump, Cohen suddenly went big-time, becoming, briefly, a partner at a prominent New York firm, Phillips Nizer, where, according to a profile, “he counted [Trump] as one of his many high-profile wealthy clients.”
He was then offered a job by the developer. The reason? “I suspect,” Cohen said, “he was impressed with both my handling of matters as well as the results.”
According to cached images of the Phillips Nizer website found in the Internet Archive, he was first listed as partner in October 2006. By May 2007, about the time he was hired by Trump, Cohen’s title was changed from partner to counsel. He remained in the Phillips Nizer directory as counsel until some time in late 2008.
What exactly did this obscure former personal injury lawyer bring to the firm? It has become increasingly common for law firms to bring on board anyone who can bring business with them. Interestingly, Cohen’s practice there was described as including distressed debt — which certainly could have described Trump’s frequently unstable situation. Mark Landis, managing partner at the firm, declined to comment, saying it is policy not to discuss current or former colleagues.
But in an interview with WhoWhatWhy, Bryan Cohen said that both he and his brother came to Phillips Nizer as part of a merger between Nizer and their entity, the Cohen Law Firm. Asked why Nizer wanted to combine with the much smaller Cohen operation, Bryan Cohen declined to say, terming the question “irrelevant.”
Whatever one is to make of Cohen’s sudden affiliation with Phillips Nizer, just as abruptly as he appeared, he moved on. So did Bryan Cohen, who joined the real estate firm, Douglas Elliman.
Michael Cohen officially joined Trump’s organization in a top position — as Executive Vice President and Special Counsel.
With Sater already working with Trump, this meant that for much of 2007, two of Trump’s key people were decidedly unusual fellows with major ties to the FSU.
Thus we see a fascinating pattern in which two childhood acquaintances began entering the Trump orbit at the same time, circa 2000-2001 (with Cohen making his extraordinary string of Trump property purchases and Sater moving into business in Trump Tower) and, by 2007, both were working near each other inside the Trump empire itself.
In this period, we see a third figure who would later become highly controversial for his links into the FSU: Paul Manafort.
It was in 2006 that the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, long a close Putin associate, signed a whopping $10 million a year contract with Manafort based on what Manafort had presented as efforts inside the United States that would “greatly benefit the Putin government.” (As the Daily Beast reported, few have noted that Deripaska soon partnered with Manafort and the Ukrainian alleged gangster Dmytro Firtash in acquiring New York’s Drake Hotel.)
That same year, Manafort himself bought an apartment…. In Trump Tower.
A Whirlwind in the Former Soviet Union
In September 2007, Trump, Sater and another partner posed for a photo at the opening of their Trump SoHo Hotel in New York.
The celebration would be brief. In December, the Times revealed that Sater had a criminal past.
Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif, Felix Sater Donald Trump, Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on September 19, 2007 in New York. Photo credit: Mark Von Holden / WireImage
This potentially put Trump in a very difficult spot. If Trump were to admit that he knew Sater was a convicted felon but did business with him nonetheless, he, the Trump Organization, and anyone within the company who knew of it would be potentially liable for sky-high sums. This was especially true for the Trump-Bayrock projects (as noted, many of them financed by FSU figures), as so many of them ended terribly, with multiple lawsuits across many states.
Bayrock unraveled. Trump SoHo went into foreclosure in 2013, after just three years of operation, leaving a slew of unoccupied units in the hands of a new developer. It was the firm’s final deal. As is now well known,Trump, who would later claim to barely know Sater, kept him on in the building and, if anything, he and Sater grew even closer. Indeed, Sater was soon working directly for Trump himself, with an office, business cards, phone number and email address all provided by the Trump Organization. The cards identified him as a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.”
In this period, Trump Organization activities in the countries of the former Soviet Union appear to have accelerated.
In 2010 and 2012, while working for Trump, Cohen traveled to the former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Georgia. It’s worth noting that Bayrock had earlier received large infusions of cash from the ultra-corrupt Kazakhstan, and other funds from Georgia, also awash in ill-gotten fortunes.
In 2013, leading up to the Russian-hosted winter Olympics in Sochi, a close Putin ally reached out to Trump.
Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani billionaire real estate developer with Russian citizenship who is known as the “Donald Trump of Russia,” paid Trump millions of dollars to bring Trump’s Miss Universe Pageant to Moscow.
An Instagram post by Agalarov’s son shows Cohen with Trump and Agalarov at the Trump Vegas around the time the deal was inked.
Right around this time, Putin awarded Agalarov a state medal for his entrepreneurial and philanthropic contributions to Russia.
The Third American Political Party: Russia
As Trump’s relationship to the former Soviet Union intensified, so, seemingly, did Russian interest in the American political system and the presidency.
In 2014, we now know, US intelligence secretly identified what it determined was a Russian effort to sow doubt and chaos in the US elections system.
By then, Trump was widely recognized for his long-standing presidential ambitions — he ran for the office as a Reform Party candidate in 2000, garnering more than 15,000 votes in the California primary before abruptly dropping out. The Russians understood that he also had mass appeal, and a personality, temperament and history associated with provoking strong and divisive reactions.
Also, in a GOP primary field with a crowd of lackluster candidates, Trump was guaranteed to draw considerable public and media interest. At a time when Hillary Clinton, an antagonist of Putin, was viewed as virtually a shoo-in, Trump was a dark horse and a wild card, but one with plenty of outside potential to shake things up.
By February, 2015, Trump had already recruited staff in early voting states; a month later, he formed a presidential exploratory committee and delayed the production of “The Apprentice,” the still-running reality television show that established Trump as a pop culture icon in the mid-2000s. Trump officially announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.
The date of the first campaign-related contacts between Trump’s people and the Russians is not clear, though as time passes, we are learning of earlier and earlier interactions.
Matters seem to have come to a head in June 2016, when, at the request of Russians, Donald Trump Jr. convened a meeting in his office.
Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Photo credit: Watch the video on C-SPAN, Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs / Flickr.
When the meeting was revealed in July 2017, a panicked Donald Trump Jr. sought to downplay it, claiming it was to discuss policy toward adoptions of Russian children. Further revelations forced him to gradually disclose bits of information that cumulatively make clear the meeting was in response to Russian offers to help Trump’s candidacy by providing intelligence on Clinton that could be used against her.
Among those attending were Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and publicist Rob Goldstone — who works for the son of the previously mentioned Russian real estate mogul Aras Agalarov and who brokered the meeting. Also present was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a fervent opponent of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on certain Russian officials following the imprisonment, and subsequent death, of a Russian tax accountant investigating fraud. Veselnitskaya claimed to hold incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
Another participant was Rinat Akhmetshin, whose past activities and associations led some to wonder whether he was or is a spy. Sen. Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley, a Republican, speculated that the meeting itself was a classic ploy of Russian intelligence, intended to draw the Trump people into a potentially incriminating relationship. That, perhaps paradoxically, would likely make Trump even more vulnerable and beholden to Putin.
And of course the meeting was arranged via Goldstone, who works for the Agalarovs — who performed such valuable services to Russia that, as noted, Putin gave Aras Agalarov a medal.
Cozier and Cozier
To sum up, Trump’s financial fortunes seem — both by appearance and by statements from the Trumps themselves — to have been heavily dependent on money from the former Soviet Union. Besides the Cohen retinue buying at least 11 apartments in Trump buildings, the money that came in through Felix Sater was also from the FSU.
How much of the funds that kept Trump’s shaky financial empire afloat in those lean years had its origins in the part of the world dominated by the Kremlin? Well, how much did not? Even Donald Trump, Jr. declared in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
As for Trump, he has repeatedly tweeted and declared that he has no loans “from Russia” and no “deals” in Russia. While that may be technically true, what’s more important is that money that originated in the FSU has played a crucial role in his business career. The “art of the deal” seems to be about knowing people who need to move money, and getting them to move it through you.
Felix Sater, FBI Felix Sater and Trump business card superimposed over FBI building. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Cliff / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) and Boing Boing (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).
Sater appears to have been an FBI asset for many years, including at least some of the years when Cohen was working with Trump.
Sater denied to WhoWhatWhy that any of his reports to the FBI from Trump Tower concerned organized crime figures in Russia, and asserted that he had never even heard of Mogilevich, though his own father was said to be a Mogilevich underling.
In any case, the FBI agents running Sater were extremely focused on the FSU underworld. It is likely that they would take an interest in the partner of Cohen’s in-law, and all the partner’s ties to organized crime. And they would surely have been interested in how Donald Trump fit into this underworld web all around him.
The Ukraine “Peace Deal”
Yet Cohen remained mostly out of the public eye, even as myriad Trump associates (including Manafort) ended up in the hot seat for their business dealings in the FSU.
That changed with the report of the January 27, 2017, meeting between Cohen, Sater and Ukrainian politician Andrii V. Artemenko at a luxury hotel in New York.
The three men discussed a proposed Russia-Ukraine peace agreement that would result in the lifting of economic sanctions against Russia. Artemenko told The New York Times that Cohen delivered the proposal to Michael Flynn, who was then Trump’s national security advisor. Cohen has told different stories about his role, but in one interview he confirmed that he delivered a bundle of documents containing the proposal to Flynn’s office while Flynn was still part of the Trump administration. Cohen has insisted he was not aware of any Kremlin involvement.
In bragging about his role in getting such material into the White House, Artemenko comes across as clumsy and artless, seemingly oblivious to how devastating the revelation could have been to Trump had the media and, say, influential congressmen made more of it. But was he naive? Or was this actually a House of Cards-type scenario, where the Russians were deliberately publicizing another bit of incriminating material on Trump in order to gain yet more leverage over him and control over his fate?
The Artemenko “peace plan” was — importantly — accompanied by documents that purported to reveal corruption on the part of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, which could be used to weaken (and potentially topple) the Ukrainian regime led by an enemy of Putin.
This of course made the current Ukrainian authorities go ballistic. No more has emerged on the document bundle, or what, if anything, resulted from its arrival in the White House. But the intent was clearly to advance Russia’s interests, and that of a pro-Russian Ukrainian politico with historic ties to Manafort.
Andrii V. Artemenko , Michael Cohen Andrii V. Artemenko superimposed photo of Michael Cohen. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from IowaPolitics.com / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and A. V. Artemenko / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Although Felix Sater was present at the meeting as a supposed intermediary, he wouldn’t have been needed for that. Artemenko had known Cohen for years. Cohen’s brother’s father-in-law was, as mentioned earlier, tied to Artemenko through business. Artemenko was also closely tied to Topolov, the allegedly money-laundering Ukrainian politician in business with Oronov, Bryan Cohen’s father-in-law. (Oronov died March 2 after suffering from what Bryan Cohen described to WhoWhatWhy as an “incredibly aggressive” cancer diagnosed three months earlier.)
Artemenko said that his Russia-Ukraine sanctions proposal had been discussed with Cohen and Sater back during the primaries in early 2016, just as Trump was emerging as the frontrunner.
Western sanctions have delivered some crushing blows to Russia’s economy, slashing both its GDP and ruble value by 50 percent in three years, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. Though the economy is expected to resume modest growth, getting out from under the stifling sanctions is for Putin still a national security concern of the highest possible priority. And the Trump camp had been all about lifting the sanctions.
During the 2016 Republican Convention, the party surprisingly removed from its platform a condemnation of Russia over its incursion into Ukraine. Initially, both Donald Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort denied any knowledge of the platform change. Much later, though, we learned that Trump’s platform chairman, J. D. Gordon, had met with the Russian ambassador during the convention.
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Acosta, Gordon said he had promoted the softening of the language on Ukraine — a softening that Trump himself had advocated earlier in the year, in a meeting with Gordon. Later still, Gordon would attempt to walk back the admission in a parsing reminiscent of Bill Clinton: “I mean, what’s the definition of pushed for the amendment, right? It’s an issue of semantics.”
Semantics or no semantics, the platform was changed.
Trump himself has been very kind to Russia. As a candidate, he worked strenuously to avoid criticizing Russia. He wouldn’t even acknowledge that Russia had seized Crimea, or that it had military units in eastern Ukraine. Even after he was nominated, he told a reporter,
“Just so you understand: [Putin] is not going to go into Ukraine, all right?,” as if that had not already happened two years earlier.
This seeming quid pro quo with Russia suggests the extent to which Russia has compromised the Trump White House.
Having Cohen and Sater deliver the sanctions “peace proposal” to Flynn, a trusted figure with his own Russia connections, keeps Trump himself out of the loop, something Cohen would well understand — that’s one of the core things lawyers do understand, and a role they often play.
We also know that Artemenko’s role in the meetings with Cohen and Sater led Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to open a treason investigation.
Why would Cohen go to such a meeting? It seems crazy. But then the Trump team’s defining trait has been its reckless bravado, and a brash disregard for troubling appearances.
As for Artemenko’s seemingly bumbling admission about the meeting, it is reminiscent of the “indiscretion” of Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, who went to the Republican convention to meet with Manafort about softening the GOP’s stance toward Russia. Although Trump and Manafort vigorously denied it, Kislyak then went public with his own account of the meeting.
In the complex game being played by Putin, with Russia’s (and Putin’s) future at stake, Trump seems to have been cornered into a precarious dependence on Russian “good will.” As we noted months ago, the FBI has long known much of this. What former FBI director and Special Counsel Robert Mueller will do about it remains to be seen.
WhoWhatWhy sought an interview with Cohen, but he declined. When we offered to send him questions, he wrote back: “You can send questions but not committing to respond.” We did send questions. And he did not respond.
!! Feds Seek Stormy Daniels Documents From Trump Org: Federal prosecutors in NY have asked Trump’s company for records relating to the $130K hush money payment made by his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to porn star Stormy Daniels.
In addition to info re the $130K hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, the FBI raid on Cohen also targeted info re AMI & hush money paid to ex-Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal re her affair w/ Trump. And now, Feds are seeking records from Trump Org.
SCOOP: Mueller investigating $150,000 donation Ukrainian steel titan made to Trump's foundation in 2015 for 20 min video talk Trump gave to conference in Kiev. Michael Cohen arranged the payment. Trump was running for R nom at the time. https://twitter.com/nytmike/status/983500891700584448
'You better get out ASAP': President's lawyer told Bethenny Frankel's partner to evacuate Trump Tower as fatal fire raged - but other residents are angry they were left in the dark Residents in Trump Tower said they were not told to evacuate or given an evacuation plan and the front desk did not answer as the fire raged Saturday However, Bethenny Frankel's some-time boyfriend, banker Dennis Shields, received a call from the president's personal attorney to evacuate 'ASAP' Incredibly, as elderly residents were praying for their lives and left stranded, Shields received a call from Trump's attorney Michael Cohen to evacuate
50th floor Apt was SOLD TrumpTower 50th floor apt sold on July 14th 2016 & same floor the apartment Trump campaign paid an extra $130k in rent for and Right after Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $130k. Someone’s pants are on fire-literally
Last week, Michael Cohen's best friend from Brooklyn and former trump colleague Felix Sater turns state's evidence in the trump/Russia probe.
This week, Cohen's home and office get raided
The door was KICKED in Things we know based on reporting that Michael Cohen was involved in that seem to be of interest to Bob Mueller - The Stormy Daniels hush money payoff - The "Ukraine peace deal" floated to the White House - Trump's quest for a Trump Tower Moscow Not clear what the raid was for.
Dumpster Fire of the Vanities
Rosenstein had to sign off on this ...will he have a job tomorrow?
Shannon Pettypiece "Mueller brought information involving Cohen to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who decided that the matter should be handled by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York rather than by Mueller’s team" .
BANK FRAUD ....WIRE FRAUD...... CAMPAIGN FINANCE VIOLATIONS!!!!
the standard for getting that search warrant was so very high
It’s rare and extraordinary for a search warrant to be issued to seize records between an attorney and a client. However, attorney-client privilege does not apply to any conspiracy between attorney and client to violate the law.
2/ The @washingtonpost also reports that Cohen is under investigation for bank fraud and campaign finance violations. That is consistent with the original @nytimes reporting that records relating to Stormy Daniels were seized. Cohen was responsible for that agreement and payment.
3/ So what does this tell us? Many things. First, federal prosecutors in Manhattan presented evidence to a federal judge who concluded that there is good reason to believe that Cohen committed a crime and that evidence of that crime was located in Cohen's office.
4/ That means that Cohen is under investigation and that there is substantial evidence that evidence of a crime was at his office. It also means that federal prosecutors believed that they could not obtain the same records via subpoena. That's unusual and interesting.
5/ The United States Attorneys' Manual (DOJ's guidelines for federal prosecutors) disfavors search warrants of attorneys' offices. Section 9-13.420 states that "prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach" and should consider subpoenas instead of a warrant.
6/ Section 13.420 requires authorization by the United States Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, consultation with the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, a search warrant that is as narrow and specific as possible, and procedures to safeguard privileged materials.
7/ The reason that searches of attorney offices are disfavored is because they can be abused by prosecutors who want to intimidate defense counsel or obtain privileged information. That is why all of those safeguards exist, and the fact that they were overcome tells us something.
8/ The fact that federal prosecutors obtained a search warrant tells us that they believed that they would not obtain the same records if they used a subpoena. That's not only what 9-13.420 requires, but it's also common sense--the prosecutors had an incentive to use a subpoena.
9/ Cohen is an attorney who has his own lawyer. If the prosecutors used a subpoena, Cohen's attorney would be obligated to go through all the documents and materials himself and produce only what's relevant to the prosecutors. He would be responsible for organizing them as well.
10/ Instead, prosecutors and FBI agents decided to take upon themselves the hefty task of seizing these documents, setting up complicated procedures to weed out privileged materials, and organize and digitize the documents. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't have to.
11/ This suggests that they have some information about Cohen that suggests that he would destroy evidence, hide evidence, or otherwise deceive the prosecution team. So what does this mean for Trump? It's an issue for him for at least two reasons.
12/ First, his relationship with Cohen appears to go beyond a typical lawyer-client relationship, by Cohen's own description. Communications between Cohen and Trump would be reviewed by a "taint team" that is separate and walled off from the investigators.
13/ If the taint team found communications between Trump and Cohen that were not privileged, those communications could be used in the investigation. An example would be communications that are completely unrelated to legal advice, or communications furthering an ongoing crime.
14/ Second, Trump should be concerned because Cohen appears to have significant potential criminal liability. He could potentially cooperate against Trump, although he appears unlikely to do so. Trump could pardon Cohen for any federal offense, but he cannot pardon state crimes.
15/ Most importantly, because the search warrant was required to be "drawn as specifically as possible," the fact that the FBI seized Trump's communications with Cohen suggests that the FBI believed that those communications may provide evidence in their criminal investigation.
16/ That should worry Trump. It doesn't necessarily mean that investigators believe Trump committed a crime, but it suggests that they believe that his communications would have potentially contained useful evidence. He was, at least, in close proximity of a crime.
17/ One question that is raised by this news that we cannot answer is why Mueller chose to refer this case to Manhattan prosecutors instead of handling it himself. Perhaps we will learn more in the days to come that could shed light on his decision. /end https://twitter.com/renato_mariotti/sta ... 4212482048
emptywheel For the numerous people who are informing me that last week's Mueller memo paid out that his authority includes charging people w/crimes so they'll flip, here's what I emphasized last week (not many people did).
seemslikeadream » Mon Apr 09, 2018 4:02 pm wrote:At the direction of the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office, federal agents executed search warrants on longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on at least THREE locations: office, home AND hotel room
CBS's Pat Milton reports the FBI stormed not only Michael Cohen's office, but also his New York residence, seizing documents and other material, as authorized in a search warrant.
This is just not about Stormy Daniels. "The payments to Ms. Clifford are only one of many topics being investigated, according to a person briefed on the search. The F.B.I. also seized emails, tax documents and business records, the person said."
George Takei The FBI has conducted a raid of Michael Cohen’s office. Cohen is Trump’s personal attorney as well as general counsel for the Trump Organization. I’m going to sit back and sip a cocktail now. Perhaps a Dark and Stormy Daniels?
See below and review my comments and predictions last week on CNN and MSNBC. An enormous amount of misplaced faith has been placed on MC's shoulders IMO. If he does not hold up, this could end very very badly for DJT and others. F.B.I. Raids Cohen Offices https://twitter.com/MichaelAvenatti?ref ... r%5Eauthor
SEARCHED AND SEIZED: F.B.I. AGENTS RAID MICHAEL COHEN’S NEW YORK HOTEL
Law-enforcement agents spent several hours at the Loews Regency hotel on Monday morning, as they executed a search warrant against the president’s personal lawyer. Cohen’s attorney said they were referred by Robert Mueller.
Emily Jane FoxApril 9, 2018 4:08 pm Special Investigation
TRUMP TRANSITION 1 Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower in Manhattan, January 13, 2017. By Kevin Hagen/The New York Times/Redux. The paparazzi lingering outside the Loews Regency on Park Avenue, hoping to get a photo of U.F.C. fighter Conor McGregor, appeared not to notice the stream of F.B.I. agents that entered the New York hotel early Monday morning, as they made their way up to the room where the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen has been staying. A handful of them remained upstairs for several hours, according to a source familiar with the situation. “Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said in a statement. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
Downstairs, hotel jazz blared on speakers, as women with Louis Vuitton totes and men in Gucci loafers and gold-button blazers checked in and out, while kids in Yeezys and fur-trimmed puffer coats chased each other around the lobby. A woman who looked awfully like Caroline Kennedy made a quick pass through the restaurant, and hotel security seemed to arrange a way for a guest, perhaps McGregor, to make an exit through a side door without being spotted.
The cheery hotel scene belied what has become a growing legal headache for Cohen, as Mueller’s Russia probe has expanded to include inquiries into the Trump Organization’s business records and foreign dealings, including in Russia. Last week, McClatchy reported that the special counsel’s investigators showed up with subpoenas to the home of an associate of the Trump Organization, compelling sworn testimony and electronic records. The report indicated that investigators were interesting in interactions involving Cohen.
Monday’s F.B.I. raid was “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” Cohen’s attorney said. “It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney-client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment on Monday. The F.B.I.’s New York office did not respond to a request for comment. Cohen’s cell phone, which is typically ringing off the hook, went straight to voice mail all day on Monday. The New York Times separately reported that the warrant was related to payments Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, among other issues.
Cohen, a loyal fixer for the Trump Organization and longtime personal friend of the Trump family, has been a person of interest in the Mueller probe since 2016, when his name surfaced in the Trump-Russia dossier compiled by Christopher Steele—a controversial opposition-research document that included claims that Cohen had traveled to Prague to meet with Russian operatives to “clean up the mess.” (Cohen has told me repeatedly that he has never been to Prague, and that the claims in the dossier are untrue; he filed a defamation suit earlier this year against Fusion GPS, which commissioned the dossier, and BuzzFeed, which published it, seeking $100 million in damages.) Last year, it was reported that Cohen had been working on a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, which did not materialize. In September, he was questioned by congressional committees over the course of two days as part of their investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
More recently, Cohen’s relationship with the president has become headline news because of the payment he made to Daniels, 11 days before the 2016 election. In January, The Wall Street Journal reported that a shell company set up by Cohen had paid Stephanie Clifford, who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, $130,000 as part of a non-disclosure agreement barring her from discussing her allegation of a 2006 affair with Trump. Her attorney has since filed a lawsuit claiming that the agreement is void because Trump did not sign it; attorneys for Cohen have filed their own suit attempting to bring the matter into arbitration. Trump, who has denied the affair through spokespeople, said aboard Air Force One on Thursday that he did not know about the agreement—a contention Cohen has repeatedly made, as well. While ethics experts have suggested that the payment could represent an illegal campaign contribution if it were deemed to have been made for electoral purposes, Cohen has repeatedly told me that the payment came out of his own pocket and that it had nothing to do with the election. “What I did defensively for my personal client, and my friend, is what attorneys do for their high-profile clients,” Cohen told me last month. “I would have done it in 2006. I would have done it in 2011. I truly care about him and the family—more than just as an employee and an attorney.”
The arrival of F.B.I. agents at the Regency marks another dramatic escalation of the Mueller probe. While Trump’s allies have dismissed many of the people in the special counsel’s crosshairs as low-level campaign officials, or waved away the charges against Paul Manafort as unrelated to Trump, Cohen is inextricably and emotionally linked to the Trump family. He worked in Trump Tower every day, and still remains one of Trump’s personal attorneys, though he left the Trump Organization around the presidential inauguration. Last summer, he told me he would “take a bullet for the president.”
For months after Mueller’s appointment, Trump and Cohen did not speak regularly, at the advice of counsel, but earlier this year, they started to communicate more. He has had dinner twice at Mar-a-Lago in recent months, including a meeting with Trump on the eve of Stormy Daniels’ sit-down on 60 Minutes.
Also, as Michael Cohen squeals bc FBI raided his office for evidence of illegal hush money payment, remember that DOJ has taken a maximalist approach to sex worker free speech, most recently by shutting down Backpage. If and when SDNY charges Cohen for hiring a thug to threaten Trump's former sex partner, he can ask for leniency by flipping on Trump on RU investigation.
Any bet how closely the crimes SDNY said they were raiding Michael Cohen to investigate align with the crimes DOJ just charged Backpage with?
Michael Avenatti Stephanie Clifford @StormyDaniels with Lois Gibson, the foremost forensic artist in the world.
Here is the renewed motion we just filed seeking to depose Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen, as well as an expedited jury trial.
Stormy Daniels’ Motion to Depose Trump Is On Stunningly Solid Legal Footing
Jeremy Stahl April 09, 20182:00 AM The Slatest
Stormy Daniels arrives to perform at the Solid Gold Fort Lauderdale strip club on March 9, 2018 in Pompano Beach, Florida.
If you listen to Michael Avenatti’s opponents, the attorney for Stormy Daniels is a fame-seeking extortionist without any case.
“Michael Avenatti is in it for the press and the money,” Michael Cohen’s attorney, David Schwartz, said last month during an interview with Good Morning America. Avenatti’s case is “completely wrong on the merits,” Schwartz added to the Los Angeles Times in an interview published on Saturday.
On Sunday, Avenatti issued a powerful rebuke to these criticisms in the form of a 27-page legal filing that requests the chance to depose both President Donald Trump and Cohen as part of Daniels’ lawsuit against them.
As I’ve reported, Daniels’ legal challenge to a contract made with Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC for her to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump is stunningly strong. Her case rests on the claim that Trump never agreed to the deal, which would mean the contract was never actually formed. Trump’s lack of signature on the contract, his own statements, as well as those of his representatives in the White House and those of Cohen support that very argument.
In Sunday’s memorandum of points accompanying his motion for a jury trial and limited discovery, Avenatti effectively used Trump’s and his surrogates’ own words against them.
Exhibit C as part of the motion are statements the president issued on Thursday denying that he had any knowledge of the agreement. As I pointed out then, and as Avenatti hammers home in his filing, how could Trump have agreed to the essential terms of the contract foreswearing his right to contact or sue Daniels if he hadn’t been aware of its existence? “y failing to sign the Agreement, Mr. Trump failed to supply essential consideration to Plaintiff in the form of a release, covenant not to sue, and representations and warranties,” Avenatti notes.
“[I]f Mr. Trump was completely unaware of Mr. Cohen’s actions, the question naturally arises as to how it would be possible for a ‘meeting of the minds’ to have occurred between parties where one of the parties does not even know about the existence of the agreement?” the filing continues.
Avenatti goes onto argue that Cohen’s motion to compel arbitration per the terms of the contract is moot until this fundamental question of Trump’s knowledge of the agreement can be sorted out via limited discovery, including depositions of the president and Cohen. He also cites previous cases where arbitration agreements have been nullified because courts have determined that a contract was never formed.
Again, this argument is incredibly solid. As Loyola Law School professor and arbitration expert Adam Zimmerman told me over email:
Avenatti’s argument that the Court set aside the arbitration agreement is well-grounded in federal arbitration law. … [C]ourts generally determine questions about whether an arbitration agreement was initially formed at all. That should make sense, as a general principle, too. If someone never even signed an agreement to arbitrate, for example, what business does some random person have deciding rights between total strangers. That’s what Avenatti argues here: that there’s a genuine factual dispute over whether one of the critical parties to this agreement–in this case, President Trump–ever agreed to be bound by arbitration. In such cases, the Federal Arbitration Act provides for a summary jury proceeding to decide whether a contract exists. And accordingly, Avenatti is pursuing limited factual discovery to that end.
While this argument alone should get him out of arbitration for the time being, Avenatti added an additional novel and clever argument.
Avenatti says that the arbitration clause itself is a mechanism to avoid federal campaign laws by whoever paid Daniels $130,000 for her silence.
“Plaintiff intends to prove the arbitration clause was entered with the purpose of keeping facts concerning federal campaign contributions and expenditures secret and hidden from public view by using a confidential arbitration proceeding in violation of FECA’s mandates to publicly report campaign contributions and expenditures,” Avenatti writes.
If the arbitration clause itself was formed for an illegal purpose, it might be considered invalid.
“Ordinarily, [moving to set aside an arbitration agreement on the ground that it is simply illegal is] a tough hurdle to overcome,” Zimmerman told me. “But here, the parties distinguish [recent] case law by arguing the arbitration agreement itself violates federal law, not just the entire contract.”
As Zimmerman also notes, Avenatti cites “well-established contract law that generally find political contracts to suppress information for money as void against public policy.”
The brief directly cites the epochal legal treatise, the Restatement of Contracts, and points out “remarkably” similar circumstances:
A, a candidate for political office, and as such advocating certain principles, had previously written letters to B, taking a contrary position. B is about to publish the letters, and A fearing that the publication will cost him his election, agrees to pay $1000 for the suppression of the letters. The bargain is illegal.
Even if Trump is able to convince a judge that he was actually party to the contract, despite all of the evidence and his statements to the contrary, he could lose on these grounds alone.
[b]Mueller just scored another huge win as longtime Trump ally turns snitch
By Grant Stern April 6, 2018
McClatchy DC just reported that the Trump Organization’s former senior advisor, a Russian mafia-linked FBI informant, is now cooperating with Special Counsel Mueller’s probe.
Russian-born Felix Sater’s relationship with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and their links to the President’s international business deals in the former Soviet Union are rapidly becoming a major focus of Mueller’s probe, including subpoenas to compel sworn testimony and produce evidence.
He is a twice-convicted felon, who spent eleven years cooperating with the FBI and spent most of that time, plus the following seven years, working for the Trump Organization formally and informally as a business associate.
Details of Sater’s decades-old cooperation agreement indicate that Mueller’s prosecutors – one of whom, Andrew Weissmann, approved his deal originally – possess an overwhelming amount of leverage to obtain his cooperation, even in today’s case. McClatchy reports:
[Felix] Sater is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and provided more than six hours of closed-door testimony on Wednesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also focused heavily on the deals involving Cohen, according to multiple people with knowledge of the hearing.
Sater previously provided similar closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017.
Felix Sater is also a childhood friend of embattled Trump lawyer Michael Cohen from Brooklyn, with whom he was involved with in both a secret Ukraine peace deal after Trump’s inauguration and in a Moscow Trump Tower deal during the election. But his history with the Trump Organization goes back to the early 1990s.
In the 2000s, Sater ran numerous Trump Tower projects across the country as the master salesman and developer for the Bayrock Company, which ultimately only finished the Trump SoHo Hotel-condominium in lower Manhattan. Donald, Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric Trump still face criminal liability for concealing Felix Sater’s felony history from lenders while borrowing hundreds of millions to build the Trump SoHo.
New York Attorney Richard Lerner litigated against a civil racketeering and bank fraud case against Felix Sater and Bayrock that ultimately ended in a settlement last month, just days after the hotel removed the Trump name. When asked for comment about Sater’s cooperation agreement with the feds, he said:
“Felix Sater was sentenced on October 23, 2009. Most, if not all cooperation agreements contain a waiver of the statute of limitations for crimes committed up to and during the period of cooperation. Sater, therefore, could still be prosecuted up to at least October 23, 2019 for Financial Institution Fraud.”
“Special Prosecutor Mueller may well have some very powerful leverage over ‘Felix the Rat’.”
Felix Sater just finished a national public relations tour last month, where he lied about his violent criminal history on national television and pretended other journalists that he’s just a snitch for the thrill of it, while court records reveal that he actually stole millions of dollars and got away with it with the full knowledge of Uncle Sam.
Buzzfeed News reports that Sater’s contributions to national security were significant, but couldn’t get an on the record source from the CIA to confirm anything, and only one FBI agent.
Ultimately, Sater’s cooperation could be a key turning point in Mueller’s probe, illuminating Donald Trump’s extensive links to Russian speaking countries, because he was the Trump family’s Moscow tour guide in the mid-2000s, and has a nose for trouble. https://washingtonpress.com/2018/04/06/ ... r-mueller/
Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries BY KEVIN G. HALL, BEN WIEDER AND GREG GORDON
April 06, 2018 05:00 AM Updated 7 hours 3 minutes ago WASHINGTON Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.
Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.
Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.
It’s unclear how many properties or deals the Mueller team might be looking at; the Trump Organization’s foreign business relationships span the globe from properties in Panama, Brazil and Uruguay to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Trump’s children — Ivanka, Don Jr. and Eric — were parties to talks involving many of the dealings. Generally, the discussions revolved around licensing fees for use of the Trump name.
Prior indictments and guilty pleas secured by the Mueller team to date have focused on campaign personnel such as ex-campaign chief Paul J. Manafort, his aide Richard Gates and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The New York Times reported on March 15 that Mueller had subpoenaed unspecified records from the Trump Organization. Days before that, the Washington Post reported that Mueller’s team was looking into a Moscow hotel deal for which Cohen brought to Donald Trump a letter of intent from a Moscow developer during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Cohen left the Trump Organization in January 2017, and has been front-page news of late because of his acknowledgement that he paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the November 2016 elections through a company established for the purpose of buying her silence with a non-disclosure agreement. Daniels has sought to toss out that agreement, appearing last month on a 60 Minutes broadcast to describe her alleged 2006 extramarital affair with then-businessman Trump. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One Thursday, Trump denied knowledge of the payment to Daniels, deferring to Cohen.
“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney,” Trump said. “You’ll have to ask Michael.”
Cohen and Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten did not respond to requests for comment.
Before the Daniels flap, which includes a defamation suit she brought against him on March 26, Cohen was headline fodder because of revelations that he pursued a hotel deal for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
His partner in that effort was Russian émigré and former Trump Organization associate Felix Sater, whose involvement in the pursuit of a Moscow-area hotel became public last year at a time when n ow-President Trump was insisting that he had no business interests in Russia.
The two men have said they teamed with a Russian group called I.C. Expert Consulting, and Cohen last year provided a detailed letter to congressional investigators about the deal and why it did not come to fruition. Appearing on MSNBC last month, Sater said that the local developer had sought financing from the Russian bank VTB, a big lender in Russia but one sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in September 2014, with its subsidiaries added to the list the following year.
Sater is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation and provided more than six hours of closed-door testimony on Wednesday to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also focused heavily on the deals involving Cohen, according to multiple people with knowledge of the hearing. Sater previously provided similar closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017.
President Trump has repeatedly said he has no business deals with Russians or Russian companies, and that he had no knowledge of any campaign collusion with Russia. Reports last year about the Moscow hotel served only to raise more questions, however.
McClatchy reported last year that Trump sought to splash his name across a giant glass obelisk-shaped hotel in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and that he had taken out copyrights on everything from vodka to hotels across the former Soviet empire and even in Iran.
An in-depth investigation by the New Yorker magazine last year spotlighted the Trump Tower Baku in Azerbaijan, where the Trump Organization’s partners on the deal were relatives of a rich government minister whose family had business entanglements with a people tied to Iran’s notorious military unit, the Revolutionary Guards.
Shortly before that report came out, the Trump Organization in December 2016 said it was walking away from a deal to have his name atop a planned hotel, condo and casino development in Batumi, a Black Sea city that leaders of the former Soviet republic of Georgia said would become a regional destination. Trump lawyers originally blamed their Georgia partners before changing their tune to say the Trump empire was stepping away from foreign entanglements with Trump about to take office.
This week’s subpoenas by the Mueller team are in line with a lengthening list of potential crimes that have surfaced during his investigation of Russia’s election meddling. That became clearer in a court filing on Monday in Mueller’s related prosecution of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort.
In a memo last May, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave Mueller authority to investigate, with his approval, unrelated crimes that surface during his inquiry. A Monday court filing by Mueller included an Aug. 2, 2017, memo in which Rosenstein listed allegations now within the scope Mueller's investigative authority. Except for Manafort's alleged financial crimes related to his Ukrainian political consulting, the remainder of the one-page list of suspected criminal activity by other figures was blacked out.
Michael Zeldin, a former top official of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said Mueller could have grounds to investigate Trump’s overseas dealings to see whether those transactions led to relationships with Russians and election-related crimes.
Mueller also is searching for witnesses in his investigation of possible collusion. When he finds solid documentary evidence of crimes involving figures being questioned, those cases can be easy to prosecute, Zeldin said.
“And incidental to that, it might provide you leverage” to cut a deal in which those individuals become cooperating witnesses in the core investigation, he said.
FBI Raid on Michael Cohen Is the Most Dangerous Day of Donald Trump’s Life
The president’s low-rent Ray Donovan can bully porn stars, but not Robert Mueller. The shtick is up.
Monday’s FBI raids on Michael Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office, his hotel room, and his home all provided a proper dose of comeuppance to a man more accustomed to screaming threats, shit-tier legal theorizing, and putting his strip-mall law degree to work in service of Donald Trump.
Cohen, far from being the superlawyer to a billionaire real-estate tycoon, really only has one important job: covering up Trump’s alleged dalliances. It was Cohen batting cleanup, dealing with an army of models, escorts, Mistresses (large “M” and small “m”), actresses, porn stars, models, Real Dolls, fangirls, groupies, and random topiary at Mar-a-Delicto with a wall of nondisclosure agreements. Master of the NDA, Cohen thought attorney-client privilege would protect him.
He forgot he had a fool for a client. Trump couldn’t shut his mouth on Air Force One last week.
Even before Trump opened his mouth on that fateful day, Cohen had managed to repeatedly hoist himself with his own petard in his dumb legal fight with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, hoping she would, like so many of Trump’s endless bimbo eruptions, go away after one of his spittle-flecked, apoplectic tantrums. If you ever wanted to see a proof of the Steve Jobs “As hire Bs and Bs hire Cs” rule, it was Trump hiring Cohen, and then Cohen hiring an attorney who was an even lower-rent knockoff version of himself. Hilarity ensued.
The image of Michael Cohen as a superlawyer was always laughable, and even the Trump fan club recognized that Cohen was a particular flavor of attorney: The Fixer. His desire to cast himself as a real-life Ray Donovan made him a kind of overwrought, grunting thug character destined for the cutting-room floor in even the most lurid soap-opera script.
Cohen, though, should be understood as an almost perfect metaphor for the Trump era, the Trump White House, and everything else orbiting this president like the hot chunks of waste spinning around the central oscillator at a sewage-treatment plant. He truly brings it all: the shoddy, hair-trigger temperament, the indifferent education and understanding of the world outside of dalliance-cleanup duty and real-estate branding deals, the malfeasance, the petty corruption, general shitheel behavior, the impulsivity, the tantrum-as-negotiation style, and the overall sketchiness of the Trump administration.
Like Trump, his enablers, and supporters, Cohen thought his position as a Trump inner-circle member would protect him indefinitely. He believed, after so many years of getting away with every kind of shenanigan at Trump’s behest, that the facts would never matter, the music would never stop, and the party would never end. Again, he’s a perfect metaphor for this administration.
Then the FBI came knocking. Imagine that moment, when he realized that they were going to raid his office, home, and hotel room. It was one thing for Cohen to pay Stormy’s $135,000 hush-money payment from his home-equity loan. “Happens all the time!” “Common practice!” “Trump never even met her, I’m just really generous!” (For you Trump readers, that’s called sarcasm.)
It’s quite another when the most experienced and determined federal prosecutors are giving you an investigative colonoscopy. If you think for one moment there’s nothing dodgy and damaging against Trump in the files of Cohen, think again.
Suddenly, Michael Cohen, the bag-walking, dick-swinging swagger-monkey wannabe thug attorney and consigliere for Donald Trump’s far-flung penile enterprises is scared. If Cohen had a lump of coal in his ass the moment those search warrants arrived, he could have popped out a diamond. He realizes how deep this hole can become if he doesn’t roll over. He doesn’t have the resources to defend himself, and Trump isn’t exactly known for paying his bills in the first place. Cohen is scared, and he’s not alone.
What has to strike absolute terror into Trump at this moment is the fact that the Southern District of New York, acting on a referral from Robert Mueller, was able to obtain extraordinarily broad authority and was granted search warrants that may even penetrate attorney-client privilege.
Trump must know this may be one of the most dangerous moments in his entire life, not just his presidency. The likelihood is that Mueller and the FBI are now in possession of the Black Books of Trump, NDAs from enough of Trump’s various affairs that you can staff a 12-pole strip club with plenty of girls left for the Champagne rooms. It’s only speculation at this point, but it’s quite likely that Cohen was the keeper of many of Trump’s lending documents, contracts, business arrangements, and the Kryptonite of Trump’s fragile self-worth: the long-sought tax returns.
It’s an open secret and has been for quite a while, but Trump isn’t worth $10 billion. As one of my hedge-fund friends (an actual billionaire) said of Trump in 2015, “He’s a clown living on credit.” For Trump to have the public learn that he may not be as wealthy as he has continued to claim as the central element of his branding would hurt him more than if Mueller then proved he took sacks of cash and a foot massage from Vladimir Putin. Collusion with the Russians is nothing compared to having his baroque finances revealed. Trump would rather be known as a traitor than as someone who isn’t one of the Masters of the Universe.
This is, of course, another one of those moments where Trump may listen to the devil perched on his shoulder and simply burn the entire Department of Justice to the ground. He is obviously unable to retain counsel skilled enough to control his constant verbal dysentery, even when his yammering puts him in enormous legal peril.
Unfortunately for Trump, Michael Cohen Is No Roy Cohn - Bloomberg
April 11, 2018, 6:00 AM CDT
Just not the same.
Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty When Donald Trump was a young Manhattan real-estate developer, and negotiations with competitors or partners reached an impasse, he would brandish a photograph of his pit-bull attorney, Roy Cohn. “Would you rather deal with him?” Trump would ask.
This was Roy Cohn:
Photographer: LIFE Picture Collection/Getty So, no, maybe you wouldn’t rather deal with him.
In 1997, 11 years after Cohn’s death, I asked Trump if he ever had worried that associating so closely with a lawyer also employed by mobsters might tarnish his own reputation. Trump brushed off the thought. “You know how many lawyers in New York represent organized-crime figures?” he asked me (I didn’t know). “Does that mean we’re not supposed to use them?”
In 2005, during another of our many conversations, Trump waxed nostalgic about Cohn. “Roy Cohn was a man that if he liked you, he was an unbelievable, loyal friend,” he allowed. “Roy was brutal, but he was a very loyal guy. He brutalized for you.”
Trump has always taken a shine to lawyers, advisers, and other employees who brutalize for him -- or at least convey to the president they have it in them to brutalize for him. Thus, Michael Cohen.
Cohen, a diluted successor of sorts to Cohn, has been Trump’s personal attorney for more than a decade and has been one of the guys Trump has routinely relied on to wrestle thorny or potentially embarrassing matters to the ground. “I’ll do anything to protect Mr. Trump,” Cohen once told Fox News.
On Monday morning, Cohen was on the receiving end of a search warrant that federal prosecutors in New York executed at his office and hotel room. According to the New York Times, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was looking for records involving one of Cohen’s businesses as well as payments to two women who claim to have had sexual encounters with the president. Cohen has already acknowledged making a payment to one of the women.
Trump, who labeled the Cohen raid as the latest installment of bogus law enforcement “witch hunts” intended to ensnare him, has recently complained that some of the lawyers in his orbit aren’t up to snuff. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” he reportedly asked when airing grievances about Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He may be saying the same of Cohen now, which wouldn’t be entirely fair. Cohen may not be a Cohn, but he’s also taking his cues from a president wired to play hardball and usually ready to bend or break the rules.
And Cohen’s not the only one who appears to be emulating the president. Just look around.
Scott Pruitt, a lawyer who runs the Environmental Protection Agency, has availed himself of a cheap condo supplied by a corporate lobbyist while also considering or actually racking up big, taxpayer-funded expenses on things like chartered airline flights, first-class travel, a personal security armada, pricey office enhancements, lots of bulletproof stuff and big salary bumps for favored aides. The EPA, according to the Times, says Pruitt’s security spending is justified because people post critical or threatening statements about him on social media sites.
Maybe Pruitt thinks his spending is also justified because the president and his family have racked up hefty charges themselves to have their security details follow them around on golf outings and trips that mix business with official duties. Who knows?
Trump's corporate lawyers seem to be taking after Roy Cohn as well. According to the Washington Post, Trump Organization attorneys last month asked Panama’s president to referee a legal squabble involving the Trump International Hotel in Panama City -- noting that the dispute could have “repercussions” for the country if no action was taken. As the Post noted, it was “the first known instance of the Trump Organization asking directly for a foreign leader’s help with a business dispute since Trump was elected.” The letter also carried the whiff of a threat. Brutal.
The White House punted the Post’s questions on the Panamanian showdown to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization said the Panamanian lawyers were acting on their own, and issued a statement on their behalf saying that the letter was a “common” and “routine” legal tactic for them.
Trump says he isn’t bothered by Pruitt's zealous spending at the EPA. He responded to the Cohen raids by saying that he considers a federal probe of possible ties between his campaign and Russia to be “an attack on our country in a true sense." He’s also musing openly about decimating the ranks of senior law-enforcement officials involved with the investigation. On Tuesday, the White House said that Trump “certainly has the power” to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.
Sometimes, if nobody around you can perfectly channel Roy Cohn, you just have to channel him yourself.
Thread by @ZarinaZabrisky: " Thread on Michael ’s (aka Michael Hastings) ties with the USSR-born oligarchs, criminals, politicians. Missing/ov […]" #MichaelCohen #Cohen #CohenRaid #CohenFBIRaid 64 tweets 15 hours ago Profile picture Embed Zarina Zabrisky @ZarinaZabrisky Follow Read on Twitter Subscribe Read later Archive #MichaelCohen Thread on Michael #Cohen’s (aka Michael Hastings) ties with the USSR-born oligarchs, criminals, politicians. Missing/overlooked links plus Russian/Ukrainian sources. #CohenRaid #CohenFBIRaid #CohenRaids #MichaelCohenRaid
Note: A common misconception: Most of Cohen's USSR-born associates are Russian speakers of pro-Russian view. Emigrated in 70-80s when Ukraine was a part of the USSR. Referring to them as “Ukrainians” is misleading. Ukraine is under a hybrid war attack by Russia. 1. Cohen partnered with USSR-born “taxi kings” with a history of felony, fraud, tax evasion and [quote]some known for ties with the Kremlin circles.
1.1.1. Former partner Garber had ties to the Russian government officials through a member of Russian parliament, Vladimir Slutsker. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Gar…
1.1.2. In 1995, Garber started Moscow Taxi with two partners, including Moscow-based businessman Igor Bakunenko. novayagazeta.ru/articles/2010/…
1.1.3. Igor Bakunenko and his partner Alexander Varshavsky owned multiple companies that shared the address with Moscow Taxi and were involved in a big corruption scandal with wholesale of Mercedes and Fords to the state-run organization. Cars, Connections, and Contracts in Putin’s Russia Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations ... n-s-russia
1.1.3. Use Google Translate to read: ustav.net/article/Avilon…
1.1.4. Varshavsky was a business associate of Vladimir Putin's first cousin, Igor Putin. Varhshavsky and Igor Putin were on the Board of Directors of Termosteps-MTL, a part of VBM-Group holding. compromat.ru/page_29221.htm
1.1.5. Igor Putin was also on the board of a Moscow bank which held accounts involved in the “Global Laundromat” fraud. reportingproject.net/therussianlaun…
1.1.6. In 2001, in Moscow, Garber befriended Patrick Daley, Chicago mayor’s son, who was friends with Moscow Mayor’s Yuri Luzhkov. Luzhkov’s office was involved in long-term negotiations with Trump in 1996—2001.
1.2.1. Ex-partner Evgeny Friedman, arrested in June 2017 for allegedly failing to pay millions in taxes. He is known to associate with USSR-born billionaires and Putin’s allies.
1.2.2. Friedman is a close friend of Cohen for more than 25 years. Taxi King arrested for allegedly failing to pay $5M in taxes Evgeny "Gene" Freidman, dubbed the "Taxi King," was arrested this week for allegedly skipping out on paying $5 million in taxes. https://therealdeal.com/2017/06/07/taxi ... -in-taxes/
1.2.3. Friedman managed the medallions for 15 taxi companies owned by Cohen. Michael Cohen says so [caption id="attachment_1447076" align="aligncenter" width="570"] Michael Cohen in Trump Tower[/caption] Gene “The Taxi King” Freidman’s bromance with Michael Cohen began in small claims court in … https://therealdeal.com/2017/02/08/the- ... ael-cohen/
1.3.1. Cohen’s USSR-born father-in-law, co-owns taxi business, has money-laundering history, currently owns three or more apartments in Trump’s buildings. A Brief History of Michael Cohen's Criminal Ties From the Russian mob to money launderers, Trump's personal attorney has long been a subject of interest to federal investigators https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/n ... mp-w518941
1.3.1 Docket for United States v. Shusterman, 1:93-cr-00186 - CourtListener.com Docket for United States v. Shusterman, 1:93-cr-00186 — Brought to you by the RECAP Initiative and Free Law Project, a non-profit dedicated to creating high quality open legal information. https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/46 ... husterman/
2. Cohen had partnered with USSR-born partners, associated with Brighton Beach and Italian mob fuel racketeers.
2.1. In 2002-03, Cohen partnered with USSR-born businessmen Arkady Vaygensberg and Leonid Tatarchuk, and started Atlantic Casino. How Trump's Lawyer Placed A Big Casino Bet That Left Dozens Empty-Handed Years before Trump’s candidacy, Michael D. Cohen backed a different kind of venture: a gambling cruise that stiffed employees and vendors, and blew off many of the ensuing lawsuits. https://www.buzzfeed.com/anthonycormier ... .oxYYWqGed
2.2. Vaygensberg invested in another casino boat in Tampa with Tatiana and Michael (Mikhail) Varzar. Tatiana later ran a catering business in Trump Grande in Florida. linkedin.com/pulse/think-yo…
2.3. Mikhail Varzar previously served a term for participating in gasoline racketeering scheme carried on by Russian and Italian organized crime groups. justice.gov/archive/opa/pr…
2.4. In 1992, Mikhail Varzar was arrested as an accomplice in “an elaborate scheme, referred to as a "daisy chain," in which gasoline was purportedly sold between a number of wholesale distributors before reaching the retail level. United States v. MacChia, 861 F. Supp. 182 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) United States v. MacChia, 861 F. Supp. 182 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) case opinion from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/di ... 2/2261418/
2.5. As part of the scheme, the Colombo, Gambino, Luchese and Genovese crime families collected their "tribute" payment of at least a one and one-half cents per gallon from the proceeds of these transactions. justice.gov/archive/opa/pr…
2.8. State prosecutors concluded that Bogatin purchased them “to launder money, to shelter and hide assets: and used them on weekend “for parties.” Trump The essential book to understanding Donald Trump as a businessman and leader—and how the biggest deal of his life went down. Now, Barrett's classic book is back in print for the first time in years a… https://books.google.com/books?id=ZQ_9C ... in&f=false
2.9. David Bogatin’s brother, Jacob Bogatin, was laundering money through Trump Tower condos via his brother. Jacob Bogatin has a string of mob-related convictions including financial fraud and tax evasion. The Most Dangerous Mobster in the World In two posh villas outside the small town of Ricany, near Prague, one of the most dreaded mob families in the world savagely murders its... https://www.villagevoice.com/1998/05/26 ... the-world/
2.10. In 1993, Jacob Bogatin, along with Mogilevich, was indicted by the US government on 45 counts for $150 million in stock fraud. He was the president and CEO of YBM Magnex International, Mogilevich’s main business in the US. Reputed Philly mobster bumped from FBI's 'Ten Most Wanted' list Semion Mogilevich http://www.phillyvoice.com/reputed-phil ... nted-list/
2.11. In May 1998, FBI, IRS, INS, and Customs did a joint raid of YBM’s offices in Newton. Mogilevich’s main activity in the U.S. appears to be money laundering, says a classified FBI report. The Most Dangerous Mobster in the World In two posh villas outside the small town of Ricany, near Prague, one of the most dreaded mob families in the world savagely murders its... https://www.villagevoice.com/1998/05/26 ... the-world/
3. In 1999, Cohen was involved in a money-laundering scheme with Moscow-based Russian organized crime group members with connections to the Kremlin. A condominium in Trump Palace in Florida was used.
3.1. A pro Russian hockey player, a Moscow-based OCG leader with ties to the oligarchs close to Putin and to Russian OCG participated in the scheme. Who is Mr.Cohen? Trump’s attorney received $350,000 for the Izmaylovskaya Criminal Group — Felshtinsky U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen received a check for $350,000 in 1999 for one of... http://english.gordonua.com/news/exclus ... 81620.html
3.2. OCG leader was tied to Vyacheslav Ivankov, a Russian OCG leader considered a major threat to the US safety by FBI.
3.3. Ivankov had ties to Trump Organization. In 1995, FBI found Ivankov in Trump Tower, and later the Taj Mahal casino. HIS phone book contained a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence and a Trump Organization fax machine. medium.com/@ZarinaZabrisk…
3.4. Ivankov was connected to Semyon Mogelivich, identified by the Justice Department as the head of a transnational criminal organization that posed a threat to U.S. national security.
4. In 2006—2010, Cohen and his brother Bryan Cohen tried to raise money for a Ukrainian-based joint-venture owned by Bryan’s USSR-born father-in-law Alex Oronov (aka Alexey Oronov and Alex Ornov), also a resident of Trump Hollywood, Florida. International Ethanol of Ukraine Iowa Source document contributed to DocumentCloud by Chris McDaniel (BuzzFeed). https://www.documentcloud.org/documents ... p1/a356315
4.1. In 2017, Alex Oronov passed away. Felix Sater's old mafia partner Salvatore Lauria posted his condolences but later deleted his tweet.
4.2. Alex Oronov co-owned the joint-venture, a bioethanol plant, with Victor Topolov, one of the richest Ukrainian businessmen and a politician.
Michael Cohen Pitched Investors For A Powerful Ukrainian Oligarch’s Company The oligarch has been investigated for money laundering and the FBI has tied three of his employees to the Russian mob. When he and his partner wanted to build an ethanol factory, their company sough… https://www.buzzfeed.com/anthonycormier ... .fnm4nZLXr
4.3. In 2008, Oronov sold part of his business to Topolov and Vadim Novinsky (at the time, Russian citizen). Both Topolov and Novinsky were the members of parliament (People’s Deputies.)
4.4. Novinsky and Topolov had joint business since at least 2005. In 2005, Topolov/Kiyv-Donbas’s Merses Plus and Fintechnology, controlled by Cyprus offshore Frodo Commercial Limited, owned by Novinsky, founded a joint company, Ukrperiklaz.
4.5. Topolov co-managed a conglomerate Kyiv-Donbas (currently KDD Group) founded by Semion Moglievich and another organized crime boss, Oleg Asmakov (“Magadan”) who was connected to the high-rank officers in Russian FSB (Federal Security Service).
Кто есть кто в нынешней Украине Криминальные тайны Украины. Выходец из Украины Леонид Ройтман подельник знаменитых киллеров Алика Магадана (Олега Асмакова) и Япончика (Вячеслава Иванькова), водивший близкое знакомство со многими с… http://tipaeto.livejournal.com/14449.html
4.6. Topolov was also a business associate of Rinat Akhmetov, a Ukrainian oligarch, closely connected with Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign advisor. (They even saw "kissing each other," see below.)
К Януковичу пришла вся семья Кучм, олигархи, Кличко и Черновецкий В Украинском доме начался прием президентом Виктором Януковичем глав иностранных государств, глав правительств, парламентов и дипмиссий, аккредитованных в Украине.Среди гостей, в частности, присутств… https://www.kramatorsk.info/view/84594
4.7. As noted, Topolov had connections with the Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Vadim Novinsky.
Anger in Ukraine as opposition MP sneaks peace plan into White House - Feb. 20, 2017 While various proposals to end Russia’s war against Ukraine circulate in the media and in high offices, an… - Feb. 20, 2017. By Olga Rudenko https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politi ... house.html
4.7.1. Novinsky is a business partner of Alex Schnaider and Eduard Shifrin (received his Russian citizenship by a personal decree from Putin), Trump’s partners in Trump Toronto Tower.
4.7.2. In the 90s, Novinsky delivered coal to Schnaider’s and Shifrin’s Zaporozhstal. news.finance.ua/ru/news/-/3035…
4.7.3. In 2009, Novinsky bought 70% shares in Schnaider’s and Shifrin’s Amstor. Schnaider held on 15% shares.
4.7.4. Novinsky is/was a partner with Roman Abramovich/Evraz (co-own UGOK), Alisher Usmanov (Moldovan Metallurgic Complex), Vagit Alkeperov/LukOil (co-owned network of gas stations in St. Petersburg in 1990s)
5. In 2008, Cohen helped Trump manage Affliction Entertainment, mixed martial arts entertainment company. It starred Putin-supported Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko. A reality television show was to be filmed in Russia. The business failed in 2009.
Michael Cohen Named COO of Affliction MANHATTAN, NEW YORK (June 10, 2008) - Last week at a press conference in New York City, Affliction, the premier fashion label for men who love hard rock and fast living, announced its partnership wit… http://www.sherdog.com/news/pressreleas ... tion-13158
5.1. Emelianenko is close to Putin, who, true to his fighting background, is a fan, known to watch battles from front-row seats and socialize with Emelianenko at dinners and sports events.
How Russian President Vladimir Putin Changed One MMA Fighter's Life Anthony Ruiz's crooked face brought forth a smile and some timely advice from Vladimir Putin. A judo black belt who penned a book and starred in a DVD touting the grappling ... http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1990 ... hters-life
5.2. In 2012, Emelianenko campaigned for Putin’s presidential campaign. Soon after, Putin named Emelianenko to presidential sports and fitness council.
In 2013, Cohen attended a meeting between Trump and Russian oligarchs in Las Vegas. One of them is a close ally of Putin and invested $20 million in Trump’s Miss Universe competition in Moscow in 2013 and got awarded by Putin at the same time.
BUSTED: Trump’s Lawyer Michael Cohen Lied. He Does Have Russian Kremlin Contacts Newly discovered photos prove that Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen lied to Yahoo! news in January in a story they titled “Trump attorney Michael Cohen: ‘I have no Russian Kremlin connections’.… https://thesternfacts.com/busted-trumps ... 61d2b95e4f
7. In 2014, Cohen’s brother Bryan became a chief administrative officer at Douglas Elliman. The founders brought Trump to Moscow in 1996 and arranged discussions between Trump Organization and the Moscow authorities elliman.com/new-developmen…
7.1. In Nov1996, Howard Lorber and Ben LeBow brought Trump to Moscow and arranged discussions about a joint venture between their Liggett-Ducat tobacco factory, Trump Organization and the city of Moscow with the Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s office.
7.2. Howard Lorber is the founder/executive of Vector, Douglas Elliman and Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services Inc. Vector Group is the parent company of Douglas Elliman. Lorber’s and LeBow’s real estate company Douglas Elliman currently has many listings in Trump Tower
7.3. In April 2016, Trump thanked Lorber and LeBow in his speech after winning the Republican primary, calling them “our great businessmen of the world.”
8.1. Squire Patton Boggs lobbied for Gazprombank in 2014, after the US imposed sanctions. It received about $450,000 for the work in the nine months through March 2015. Russian bank hires two former U.S. senators U.S. sanctions against Russia are becoming a boon for Washington's lobbyists. https://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/09 ... s-senators
9. On Jan 29, 2017, Felix Sater organized a meeting between Andrii Artemenko and Cohen to discuss Artemenko's proposal for solving the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The plan involved lifting sanctions on Russia and more.
The Trump-Russia Saga Takes a Strange New Turn The president's personal lawyer, a Trump associate with Mafia ties, and a wealthy pro-Putin Ukrainian lawmaker reportedly joined together to concoct a secret peace plan to resolve the Russia-Ukraine … https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/02 ... ia-ukraine
9.1. Cohen then allegedly "hand-delivered" the plan in a sealed envelope to Michael Flynn’s office.
A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates Amid scrutiny of President Trump’s possible ties to Russia, his personal lawyer advances an opposition Ukrainian lawmaker’s sealed plan to the White House. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/p ... .html?_r=0
9.2. Felix Sater, USSR-born former Trump advisor, an ex-convict with OC ties, and a son of a “syndicate boss” for Russian OC, knew Cohen through work with the Trump Organization.
9.3. According to Artemenko’s interview to Ukrainian Страна.ру. Все путешествия по России. Страна.Ру - подробный иллюстрированный путеводитель по городам и достопримечательностям России. Статьи о путешествиях, людях, культуре, истории России. Новости и афиша по городам и регионам. Документ… http://strana.ru , he had known Cohen and Sater for a long time. He “got acquainted with Sater through mutual friends. He knew Cohen because “he founded a family “business on ethanol” in Ukraine.”
9.4. When asked why he was chosen as the person to tell about this initiative in Washington, Artemenko answered: “Because I have long known these people with close ties to Trump. …with Cohen and Sater, I began to discuss it at the primaries stage, when no one believed that... ...Trump would even become a candidate, not to mention the presidency… Already at that time, I began to establish channels of communication with Donald Trump’s team.”
Always nice when other attorneys that generally know what they are talking about back you up on what you have been saying for over five weeks. For the record, I DID NOT write the headline - it's all theirs. Clown Lawyer Michael Cohen Gonna Learn Today
Clown Lawyer Michael Cohen Gonna Learn Today
The problem isn't that the FBI raided his place, it's that they'll probably find what they're looking for.
By Elie Mystal
In the movie, Michael Cohen will not be played George Clooney. Maybe Zach Galifianakis though. (Photo credit should read BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images) Due to his closeness with President Donald Trump, there is a lot of talk about the recently raided Michael Cohen being the key to unraveling all of the president’s alleged and supposed crimes. We want answers and it appears Cohen has some. It’s natural to project the desire that Donald Trump be held accountable for something onto the decisions of Robert Mueller, the U.S. Attorney, or the Department of Justice.
It may well be that the raid of Cohen’s office is the beginning of the end of Donald Trump, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Michael Cohen is a terrible attorney, the Wreck-It-Ralph of fixers. It is as likely as not the S.D.N.Y. is just looking for evidence of election fraud that Cohen has basically already admitted to.
Anything about Michael Cohen that suggests competence flakes off with a light scratch. Yes, he’s a lawyer, but when you look closely, you notice that he got his law degree from Cooley Law School, which is one of the worst law schools in the country. Cohen’s business seems to be taxi cabs, for which he owes back taxes. He doesn’t have a roster of clients; like Tom Hagan in the Godfather, Cohen seems to only have one client. Cohen’s brief association with the otherwise respected law firm of Squire Patton Boggs is already over, leaving one to wonder why the firm sullied itself with a Cohen liaison to begin with. (Answer: I assume the firm thought that having the ear of the president could be useful.)
Cohen is regularly referred to as Trump’s “pit bull” — which is NOT A COMPLIMENT. It appears that Cohen used what legal knowledge he had as an intimidation tactic, as opposed to the basis from which to give sound counsel and advice.
All of which is to say: you don’t need to have it in for Donald Trump to authorize a search warrant on Michael Cohen. The two need not be linked. One thing that Trump himself seems to have a really difficult time understanding is that people have ethical and legal responsibilities independent of the president’s definition of the personal loyalty. If Michael Cohen violated those precepts, he of course needs to be investigated.
We don’t know what evidence investigators had against Cohen, but we know it was significant enough to get multiple levels of prosecutors and a magistrate to sign off on the search warrants.
The mere existence of the search warrant does not do all of our work for us. Prosecutors have been known, from time to time, to overstep their bounds when requesting warrants. The standard is not, “Oh, they got a warrant so he’s probably guilty of something.”
But, unfortunately for Cohen, the fact that his own office was raided neatly tracks with the kind of buffoonery that has been spilling out of this guy’s mouth since somebody turned the cameras on.
Remember this is the story that Cohen (and Trump) want you to believe:
A lawyer, acting on his own authority and not in consultation with his client, set up a shell corporation to pay $130,000 to prevent a woman for going public with her allegation of sleeping with that lawyer’s client — who happened to be running for president at the time. The client/candidate had no knowledge of the payment, and the payment was not logged as a campaign contribution, but the client may or may not have set up a slush fund the lawyer could access to… pay for things? But this payment was made with a home equity line that the lawyer personally secured to make the payment.
THAT’S THEIR OFFICIAL STORY, FOLKS. We assume that the FBI is looking at whether Cohen participated in election fraud or bank fraud because his official story sounds an awful lot like election fraud and bank fraud.
This is what Cohen says when he knows people are listening to him. Can you imagine what he says when he thinks he’s speaking in private? The biggest problem for Trump isn’t that the FBI raided his attorney’s office, it’s that the FBI might find exactly what they are looking for.
But Cohen’s clownishness cuts both ways. As many Trump people are learning for the first time, you can pierce the veil on attorney-client privilege in cases of crime or fraud. BUT the intention to commit a crime rests with the client, not the attorney. And if we’re going to get a look at attorney work-product, it has to be shown that the work-product was in fact used in furtherance of the alleged crime.
What that means is that Trump could have said, “What are we going to do about this here porn star,” and Cohen could have said, “I’ll handle it, boss.” And that conversation could not be used against Trump, because it would not pierce the veil of attorney-client privilege. Trump wouldn’t have the mens rea to commit an illegal act in that hypothetical. In that example, Cohen would still be in a heap of trouble, but Trump could say he didn’t know a thing about it.
Maybe Cohen holds a lot of secrets, but maybe he doesn’t. They call him a pit bull, but just think about how much your idiot dog knows about your tax returns. The way Cohen behaves, I don’t believe he knows “where all the bodies are buried” unless he personally buried a literal body… and even then, Cohen seems like the kind of guy who could lose a corpse in the Pine Barrens.
For now, I believe the person most in legal jeopardy from the FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen is Michael Cohen. Though I’d feel more confident in that position if Trump wasn’t so visibly shaken that he’s about to start a war to distract us from the raid.
I spoke to the CBC for this story on the raid on Michael Cohen's hotel room and office. Hope you'll check it out.
Michael Cohen knows a lot. No wonder the U.S. president sounds worried about FBI raids on his lawyer
Raids suggest prosecutors are investigating a lawyer 'who is believed to be committing a crime'
Matt Kwong · CBC · Posted: Apr 11, 2018 4:00 AM ET | Last Updated: 2 hours ago
It was an extraordinary seizure of documents that could yield an extraordinary witness against the U.S. president — his own attorney.
Former federal prosecutors say that a series of FBI raids on Monday at the Manhattan office, home and hotel room of Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, suggest that federal officials had probable cause to believe Cohen has potential criminal exposure and that he might destroy records of his communications with clients, including Trump, unless those documents were seized.
That could spell trouble for the president, especially if it means Cohen, one of the most trusted non-family confidants in the Trump orbit, feels pressured by mounting criminal liability to "flip" and co-operate in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"It's pretty remarkable," former federal prosecutor Barak Cohen said of the move to overcome attorney-client privilege and execute the search warrant.
"For the Department of Justice to have done this, they would have required special clearance from the U.S. Attorney ... and high-level clearance from the Department of Justice."
To preserve attorney-client privilege, legal experts say a so-called taint team of lawyers not part of the prosecutorial case in question would review the seized material to determine what prosecutors can and can't see.
Investigators are believed to have been looking for, in part, evidence of payments made to Stormy Daniels, left, and Karen McDougal, right, to keep them from speaking about separate liaisons with Trump. (Matt Sayles/AP, Evan Vucci/AP and Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty for Playboy) And it's likely that Michael Cohen's reported activities — involving payoffs to women with whom Trump reportedly had extramarital affairs, a Russia-favouring "peace plan" for Russia and Ukraine, and a business deal sought for a Trump Tower in Moscow — were of interest to federal authorities.
If there's anybody who knows a lot about Trump's legal and business orbit, it's his personal lawyer, known for acting more in the capacity as a fixer, dealmaker and media attack dog for Trump than as legal counsel. It's not unheard of to execute a search warrant on an attorney's office, but executing such a warrant on the personal attorney of the U.S. president is something else altogether, perhaps even historic.
A raid on Cohen's office could yield a decade's worth of correspondence with Trump, which might explain why the president vented on Twitter on Tuesday morning:
Attorney-client privilege allows clients to discuss their legal troubles with lawyers, protecting them from being incriminated by said correspondence. But it doesn't apply under the "crime-fraud exception," which strips those protections if the communication involves an attorney and client furthering criminal activity.
In other words, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wouldn't have executed the search warrant at Trump's lawyer's office unless it had good reason and probable cause of criminality, said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
"That tells us that [the FBI] believes there wasn't any less obstructive methods to obtain the information," he said. "So they considered the privilege issues, but considered them to be outweighed by the necessity to obtain evidence that couldn't be obtained otherwise."
Trump's Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, reportedly signed off on the search warrant. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press) Trump's Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, reportedly signed off on the warrant. Prosecutors would have had to convince a federal judge to conclude evidence of criminal activity could be found.
The raid, first reported by The New York Times, was handled by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — not the team led by Mueller.
But Mueller did have a hand in instigating the raids. His team reportedly referred the case to the Manhattan prosecutors as a local issue. That suggests Mueller's team uncovered evidence of something criminal but tangential to their mandate of investigating Russian interference, lawyers say.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, is said to have had a hand in instigating the raids. His team reportedly referred the case to prosecutors in Manhattan. (J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press) The Times reported that the documents seized in the raids related to Cohen's payment of $130,000 to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with the president, as well as records of an alleged $150,000 payment relating to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also says she had an affair with Trump.
Cohen is also reportedly under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
Among other items seized from Cohen were tax records, business documents, and electronic devices, according to the Times, which cited a person briefed on the search. Email communications could be of great concern if they include statements Trump made under the presumption his words would never go public.
Trump, 'certainly believes he has the power' to fire Mueller, the White House press secretary said Tuesday. Some senators fear doing so could lead to a constitutional crisis. (Alex Wong/Getty and Jim Bourg/Reuters) While Trump railed against the raids as "an attack on our country," Michael Cohen offered a different account, telling CNN on Tuesday that FBI agents were "professional, courteous [and] respectful."
Should the president's lawyer be charged with an offence, "that could provide substantial leverage for Mueller in trying to secure his co-operation in the Russia probe," said Seth Abramson, an attorney and professor known for his popular, sometimes conspiratorial Twitter takedowns of the Trump administration.
Cohen "would be as damaging a witness against Donald Trump as any witness Mueller could secure. And that includes Trump's children," he said.
Jim Trusty, who formerly headed the Justice Department's organized crime unit, said that up until recently, Cohen was described as co-operative with the Mueller probe.
But he doubts Cohen can be compelled to betray his own client to "save his own skin."
"And an attorney who breaks the relationship between attorney and client while facing criminal charges himself is not the most likable witness," Trusty said.
In the meantime, although Mueller only made the referral to the U.S. Attorney in New York to conduct the raids, speculation was raging that Trump might try to fire Mueller. The White House press secretary said Tuesday that Trump "certainly believes he has the power to do so."
2/ I'd add to the background info and quotes I provided to the CBC that I disagree with Jim Trusty: if Cohen is charged with an offense, it's likely to be one in which Trump was a co-conspirator, so testifying against him would be less attorney-client than defendant/co-defendant.
3/ Trusty is correct that if Cohen isn't charged with anything, then Mueller tries to get him to testify against Trump (which isn't the situation now being contemplated) privilege is a major problem. But if the crime-fraud exception applies, it pierces attorney-client privilege.
4/ It's hard to imagine, as I think Trusty is, a situation in which Cohen is charged with crimes that (a) don't implicate Trump as a co-conspirator, and (b) are serious enough that they could convince Cohen to flip on the president. So my remark doesn't contemplate that scenario. https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status ... 8810085376
The bank Michael Cohen used to make the Stormy Daniels’ hush money payment is partly owned by Tom Barrack’s private equity firm, and Barrack sits on the bank board
Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records on ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape - the search warrant also sought evidence of whether Michael Cohen tried to suppress damaging information about Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign
SDNY appears to be looking for evidence of a criminal conspiracy
A former prosecutor explains how Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen might have broken the law
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured arriving back at his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. Amir Levy | Reuters
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured arriving back at his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018.
Success is oft-times measured by fame and fortune. It's no different for an attorney. What attorney does not want to be mic'd up ready for prime-time? What attorney does not want to be on the front page of the New York Times? What attorney does not want to walk out of the courtroom to a fist-full of microphones?
In order for that to happen, the attorney needs a client. Often a high-profile, high paying client. It's a symbiotic relationship. You can't have one without the other. But when does the relationship take the attorney from the penthouse to the big house? It's when the attorney develops a case of "no-itis –" the inability to say "no."
An attorney is not above the law
An attorney is supposed to be a zealous advocate for his client. An attorney is supposed to seek the objectives sought by the client. And an attorney is to do no harm to a client (perhaps that's why our degree is a Juris Doctorate). But an attorney is not above the law. And an attorney is bound by rules of ethics. We have our own rulebook. That rulebook is designed to be a roadmap for what an attorney can and cannot do. It is a guide to where the line is. Cross it and be damned.
The rulebook defines the attorney-client relationship and that most solemn of promises – the attorney's promise to be loyal to the client and to protect the client's confidences and secrets. That means there has to be an attorney-client relationship.
When attorney-client privilege is broken
If the client is not the client, then there are no confidences or secrets to protect. In the case of then Mr. Trump's and now President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen, whose residence and office were the subject of a search warrant executed by the FBI, if Mr. Trump did not know then, that Mr. Cohen was acting as his attorney in resolving the Stormy Daniels matter with a payment of $130,000, then there is no attorney-client relationship.
And therefore no privilege. Mr. Cohen can be asked about the payment because the client didn't know about it.
The rules say that the attorney is supposed to advance the client's objectives, which means the client has to give the instructions – the guidance. If Mr. Cohen acts without Mr. Trump's knowledge, then Mr. Cohen is not advancing the client's objectives and the rule has been broken. If Mr. Cohen goes ahead and settles a case and pays the money for the settlement without Mr. Trump knowing about it, he has not followed the client's directives. The rule has been broken.
The rulebook says that the communications between an attorney and his client are supposed to be confidential. So, if someone else is present for the conversation who is not an attorney or has not been engaged by the attorney to help the client legally, then the privilege is destroyed. And apparently, if Mr. Trump was not present for any of the conversations, how can they be privileged in the first place?
Shielding a client from the law
The rulebook says that an attorney can never, ever help a client to commit a crime. An attorney cannot act as a nominee for the client in furtherance of a crime – to shield the client. The attorney can't "take one for the team" thinking that because the attorney is acting in his capacity as an attorney, that's it's not a crime.
Attorneys don't have automatic immunity – and no, it's not just a rulebook violation. If Mr. Cohen wanted to shield Mr. Trump from knowing that campaign finance laws were being broken with this payment, then Mr. Cohen will be hard-pressed to avoid a criminal conviction, as he is as guilty as if Mr. Trump knew as Mr. Cohen is an aider, and abetter and a co-conspirator.
There is also conscious avoidance – Mr. Trump cannot close his eyes to the high probability that this payment is being made and campaign finance laws are being broken. Conscious avoidance allows the government to prove knowledge through the purposely closed eyes of the defendant.
The attorney can't have money pass through the attorney or the attorney's account – even the escrow account as a conduit or as a curtain. The attorney can't take care of a payment and not tell the client in order to protect the client from harm, without harming himself (the attorney).
If the client seeks to use the attorney's license to commit a crime, then any communications between the attorney and the client are no longer privileged. If the client needs the attorney to run money through the client, and the purpose of that is to circumvent the law, then those discussions are not privileged.
Crime fraud exception
If Mr. trump and Mr. Cohen did discuss this payment, those communications are not privileged. It's called the "crime fraud exception" and it's exactly what it sounds like – an exception to the otherwise sacrosanct attorney-client privilege.
Break the rules? On the attorney's best day the attorney may not be an attorney any longer. On the attorney's worst day? A search warrant executed on Mr. Cohen's residence and office – a search warrant that is signed by a Judge based upon evidence provided by the government showing that it is more likely than not that a crime was committed.
A search warrant filed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York – not by Robert Mueller. A search warrant that requires special Department of Justice rules to be followed because it involves an attorney.
Tom Arnold Retweeted I AM _________ The Trump Apprentice, Miss Universe, Miss Teen USA Tapes r important but not necessarily because of a racist or sexist word or bad behavior with unsuspecting nude young employees even tho they r violations of fed labor law. It was who was visiting Trump on the set when he did it.Tom Arnold added,
I AM _________
@VJShordee444 Replying to @TomArnold Just asking. Wondering why they want the Access Hollywood Tape?
Tom Arnold Tom Arnold Retweeted I AM _________ Of course I did but I still want to get it first!Tom Arnold added,
I AM _________
@VJShordee444 Raid on Trump’s Lawyer Sought Records on ‘Access Hollywood’ Tape. @TomArnold did you tell #Mueller about the Elevator Tape? https://nyti.ms/2GPcs3L
However, six current and former A.M.I. employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared legal retaliation by the company, said that Sajudin had told A.M.I. the names of the alleged mistress and child. Reporters at A.M.I. had spent weeks investigating the allegations, and Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story.
$30,000 rumor? Tabloid paid for, spiked, salacious Trump tip
NEW YORK (AP) — Eight months before the company that owns the National Enquirer paid $150,000 to a former Playboy Playmate who claimed she’d had an affair with Donald Trump, the tabloid’s parent made a $30,000 payment to a less famous individual: a former doorman at one of the real estate mogul’s New York City buildings.
As it did with the ex-Playmate, the Enquirer signed the ex-doorman to a contract that effectively prevented him from going public with a juicy tale that might hurt Trump’s campaign for president.
The payout to the former Playmate, Karen McDougal, stayed a secret until The Wall Street Journal published a story about it days before Election Day. Since then curiosity about that deal has spawned intense media coverage and, this week, helped prompt the FBI to raid the hotel room and offices of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
The story of the ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin, hasn’t been told until now.
The Associated Press confirmed the details of the Enquirer’s payment through a review of a confidential contract and interviews with dozens of current and former employees of the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media Inc. Sajudin got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, “in perpetuity,” to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone.
Cohen, the longtime Trump attorney, acknowledged to the AP that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman.
The parallel between the ex-Playmate’s and the ex-doorman’s dealings with the Enquirer raises new questions about the roles that the Enquirer and Cohen may have played in protecting Trump’s image during a hard-fought presidential election. Prosecutors are probing whether Cohen broke banking or campaign laws in connection with AMI’s payment to McDougal and a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen said he paid out of his own pocket.
Federal investigators have sought communications between Cohen, American Media’s chief executive and the Enquirer’s top editor, the New York Times reported.
Cohen’s lawyer has called the raids “inappropriate and unnecessary.” American Media hasn’t said whether federal authorities have sought information from it, but said this week that it would “comply with any and all requests that do not jeopardize or violate its protected sources or materials pursuant to our First Amendment rights.” The White House didn’t respond to questions seeking comment.
On Wednesday, an Enquirer sister publication, RadarOnline, published details of the payment and the rumor that Sajudin was peddling. The website wrote that the Enquirer spent four weeks reporting the story but ultimately decided it wasn’t true. The company only released Sajudin from his contract after the 2016 election amid inquiries from the Journal about the payment. The site noted that the AP was among a group of publications that had been investigating the ex-doorman’s tip.
During AP’s reporting, AMI threatened legal action over reporters’ efforts to interview current and former employees and hired the New York law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which challenged the accuracy of the AP’s reporting.
Asked about the payment last summer, Dylan Howard, the Enquirer’s top editor and an AMI executive, said he made the payment to secure the former Trump doorman’s exclusive cooperation because the tip, if true, would have sold “hundreds of thousands” of magazines. Ultimately, he said the information “lacked any credibility,” so he spiked the story on those merits.
“Unfortunately...Dino Sajudin is one fish that swam away,” Howard told RadarOnline on Wednesday.
But four longtime Enquirer staffers directly familiar with the episode challenged Howard’s version of events. They said they were ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story before completing potentially promising reporting threads.
They said the publication didn’t pursue standard Enquirer reporting practices, such as exhaustive stake-outs or tabloid tactics designed to prove paternity. In 2008, the Enquirer helped bring down presidential hopeful John Edwards in part by digging through a dumpster and retrieving material to do a DNA test that indicated he had fathered a child with a mistress, according to a former staffer.
The woman at the center of the rumor about Trump denied emphatically to the AP last August that she’d ever had an affair with Trump, saying she had no idea the Enquirer had paid Sajudin and pursued his tip.
The AP has not been able to determine if the rumor is true and is not naming the woman.
“This is all fake,” she said. “I think they lost their money.”
The Enquirer staffers, all with years of experience negotiating source contracts, said the abrupt end to reporting combined with a binding, seven-figure penalty to stop the tipster from talking to anyone led them to conclude that this was a so-called “catch and kill” — a tabloid practice in which a publication pays for a story to never run, either as a favor to the celebrity subject of the tip or as leverage over that person.
One former Enquirer reporter, who was not involved in the Sajudin reporting effort, expressed skepticism that the company would pay for the tip and not publish.
“AMI doesn’t go around cutting checks for $30,000 and then not using the information,” said Jerry George, a reporter and senior editor for nearly three decades at AMI before his layoff in 2013.
The company said that AMI’s publisher, David Pecker, an unabashed Trump supporter, had not coordinated its coverage with Trump associates or taken direction from Trump. It acknowledged discussing the former doorman’s tip with Trump’s representatives, which it described as “standard operating procedure in stories of this nature.”
The Enquirer staffers, like many of the dozens of other current and former AMI employees interviewed by the AP in the past year, spoke on condition of anonymity. All said AMI required them to sign nondisclosure agreements barring them from discussing internal editorial policy and decision-making.
Though sometimes dismissed by mainstream publications, the Enquirer’s history of breaking legitimate scoops about politicians’ personal lives — including its months-long Pulitzer Prize-contending coverage of presidential candidate Edwards’ affair — is a point of pride in its newsroom.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, the Enquirer published a string of allegations against Trump’s rivals, such as stories claiming Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was a bisexual “secret sex freak” and was kept alive only by a “narcotics cocktail.”
Stories attacking Trump rivals or promoting Trump’s campaign often bypassed the paper’s normal fact-checking process, according to two people familiar with campaign-era copy.
The tabloid made its first-ever endorsement by officially backing Trump for the White House. With just over a week before Election Day, Howard, the top editor, appeared on Alex Jones’ InfoWars program by phone, telling listeners that the choice at the ballot box was between “the Clinton crime family” or someone who will “break down the borders of the establishment.” Howard said the paper’s coverage was bipartisan, citing negative stories it published about Ben Carson during the Republican presidential primaries.
In a statement last summer, Howard said the company doesn’t take editorial direction “from anyone outside AMI,” and said Trump has never been an Enquirer source. The company has said reader surveys dictate its coverage and that many of its customers are Trump supporters.
The company has said it paid McDougal, the former Playboy Playmate, to be a columnist for an AMI-published fitness magazine, not to stay silent. McDougal has since said that she regrets signing the non-disclosure agreement and is currently suing to get out of it.
Pecker has denied burying negative stories about Trump, but acknowledged to the New Yorker last summer that McDougal’s contract had effectively silenced her.
“Once she’s part of the company, then on the outside she can’t be bashing Trump and American Media,” Pecker said.
In the tabloid world purchasing information is not uncommon, and the Enquirer routinely pays sources. As a general practice, however, sources agree to be paid for their tips only upon publication.
George, the longtime former reporter and editor, said the $1 million penalty in Sajudin’s agreement was larger than anything he had seen in his Enquirer career.
“If your intent is to get a story from the source, there’s no upside to paying upfront,” said George, who sometimes handled catch-and-kill contracts related to other celebrities. Paying upfront was not the Enquirer’s usual practice because it would have been costly and endangered the source’s incentive to cooperate, he said.
After initially calling the Enquirer’s tip line, Sajudin signed a boilerplate contract with the Enquirer, agreeing to be an anonymous source and be paid upon publication. The Enquirer dispatched reporters to pursue the story both in New York and in California. The tabloid also sent a polygraph expert to administer a lie detection test to Sajudin in a hotel near his Pennsylvania home.
Sajudin passed the polygraph, which tested how he learned of the rumor. One week later, Sajudin signed an amended agreement, this one paying him $30,000 immediately and subjecting him to the $1 million penalty if he shopped around his information.
The Enquirer immediately then stopped reporting, said the former staffers.
Cohen, last year, characterized the Enquirer’s payment to Sajudin as wasted money for a baseless story.
For his part, Sajudin confirmed he’d been paid to be the tabloid’s anonymous source but insisted he would sue the Enquirer if his name appeared in print. Pressed for more details about his tip and experience with the paper, Sajudin said he would talk only in exchange for payment.
“If there’s no money involved with it,” he said, “I’m not getting involved.”
The Search of Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen's Office: What We Can Infer Immediately
April 9, 2018 by Ken White The Very Big News of the day: FBI Agents raided the law office of Michael Cohen, President Trump's lawyer who was involved in payment of $130,000 to adult performer "Stormy Daniels" for a nondisclosure agreement.
Recently I've been listening to the Podcast "Slow Burn," about Watergate. There's a fascinating theme throughout it: when you're living a historical event, how do you know? How can you tell when a development is a Big Deal?
This is a big deal. It's very early on, but here's some things we can already tell.
1. According to Cohen's own lawyer, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (widely regarded within itself as being the most important and prestigious U.S. Attorney's Office in the country) secured the search warrants for the FBI. Assuming this report is correct, that means that a very mainstream U.S. Attorney's Office — not just Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office — thought that there was enough for a search warrant here.
2. Moreover, it's not just that the office thought that there was enough for a search warrant. They thought there was enough for a search warrant of an attorney's office for that attorney's client communications. That's a very fraught and extraordinary move that requires multiple levels of authorization within the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney's Manual — at Section 9-13.320 — contains the relevant guidelines and regulations. The highlights:
The feds are only supposed to raid a law firm if less intrusive measures won't work. As the USAM puts it:
In order to avoid impinging on valid attorney-client relationships, prosecutors are expected to take the least intrusive approach consistent with vigorous and effective law enforcement when evidence is sought from an attorney actively engaged in the practice of law. Consideration should be given to obtaining information from other sources or through the use of a subpoena, unless such efforts could compromise the criminal investigation or prosecution, or could result in the obstruction or destruction of evidence, or would otherwise be ineffective.
Such a search requires high-level approval. The USAM requires such a search warrant to be approved by the U.S. Attorney — the head of the office, a Presidential appointee — and requires "consultation" with the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not a couple of rogue AUSAs sneaking in a warrant.
Such a search requires an elaborate review process. The basic rule is that the government may not deliberately seize, or review, attorney-client communications. The USAM — and relevant caselaw — therefore require the feds to set up a review process. That process might involve a judge reviewing the materials to separate out what is privileged (or what might fall within an exception to the privilege), or else set up a "dirty team" that does the review but is insulated from the "clean team" running the investigation. Another option is a "special master," an experienced and qualified third-party attorney to do the review. Sometimes the reviewing team will only be identifying and protecting privileged material. Sometimes the reviewing team will be preparing to seek, or to implement, a court ruling that the documents are not privileged. (Robert Mueller is aggressive on this sort of thing; he already sought and obtained a court ruling that some of Paul Manafort's communications with his lawyers were not privileged because they were undertaken for the purpose of fraud — the so-called "crime-fraud exception" to the attorney-client privilege.
3. A Magistrate Judge signed off on this. Federal magistrate judges (appointed by local district judges, not by the President) review search warrant applications. A Magistrate Judge therefore reviewed this application and found probable cause — that is, probable cause to believe that the subject premises (Cohen's office) contains specified evidence of a specified federal crime. Now, Magistrate Judges sometimes are a little too rubber-stampy for my taste. But here, where the Magistrate Judge knew that this would become one of the most scrutinized search warrant applications ever, and because the nature of the warrant of an attorney's office is unusual, you can expect that the Magistrate Judge felt pretty confident that there was enough there.
4. The search warrant application (the lengthy narrative from the FBI agent setting for the evidence) is almost certainly still under seal, and even Michael Cohen doesn't get to see it [yet]. But the FBI would have left the warrant itself — and that shows (1) the federal criminal statutes they were investigating, and (2) the list of items they wanted to seize. Much can be learned for those. Assuming Michael Cohen doesn't release it, watch for it to be leaked.
The National Enquirer, a Trump Rumor, and Another Secret Payment to Buy Silence
How the media organization protected the Presidential candidate early in his campaign.
Ronan FarrowApril 12, 2018 3:19 AM
David Pecker, the chairman and C.E.O. of A.M.I., has spoken publicly about his friendship with President Trump. Photograph by Mark Peterson / Redux for The New Yorker
Late in 2015, a former Trump Tower doorman named Dino Sajudin met with a reporter from American Media, Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, at a McDonald’s in Pennsylvania. A few weeks earlier, Sajudin had signed a contract with A.M.I., agreeing to become a source and to accept thirty thousand dollars for exclusive rights to information he had been told: that Donald Trump, who had launched his Presidential campaign five months earlier, may have fathered a child with a former employee in the late nineteen-eighties. Sajudin declined to comment for this story. However, six current and former A.M.I. employees, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared legal retaliation by the company, said that Sajudin had told A.M.I. the names of the alleged mistress and child. Reporters at A.M.I. had spent weeks investigating the allegations, and Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story.
The New Yorker has uncovered no evidence that Trump fathered the child. A spokesperson for the Trump Organization denied the allegations, including the assertion that Calamari told Sajudin the story. When I reached out to the alleged daughter, she declined through a representative of her employer to answer questions. Her mother did not respond to repeated requests for comment. I spoke with the father of the family, who said that Sajudin’s claim was “completely false and ridiculous” and added that the Enquirer had put the family in a difficult situation. “I don’t understand what they had to pay this guy for,” he said. The New Yorker is not disclosing the family members’ names, out of respect for their privacy. Regardless of the veracity of Sajudin’s claims, legal experts said that A.M.I.’s payment to Sajudin is significant because it establishes the company’s pattern of buying and burying stories that could be damaging to Trump during the Presidential campaign.
Sajudin met the A.M.I. reporter at the McDonald’s that winter night to sign an amendment finalizing the transaction and adding a million-dollar penalty if the ex-doorman were to disclose the information without A.M.I.’s permission. According to a source with knowledge of the meeting, the two of them signed the amendment—an unexecuted copy of which was obtained by The New Yorker—and Sajudin remarked that it was going to be “a very merry Christmas.” Shortly after the company paid Sajudin, the chairman and C.E.O. of A.M.I., David Pecker, who has spoken publicly about his friendship with Trump, ordered the A.M.I. reporters to stop investigating, the sources told me. One of the employees involved said, “There’s no question it was done as a favor to continue to protect Trump from these potential secrets. That’s black-and-white.”
A.M.I.’s thirty-thousand-dollar payment to Sajudin appears to be the third instance of Trump associates paying to suppress embarrassing stories about the candidate during the 2016 Presidential race. In August, 2016, A.M.I. paid Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, a hundred and fifty thousand dollars for her story about a nine-month affair with Trump, and then never published an article about it. (A.M.I. said her story was not credible.) In October, 2016, Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Stephanie Clifford, an adult-film actress who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, a hundred and thirty thousand dollars to keep her account of an affair with Trump secret. (Clifford’s agreement was distinct from McDougal’s in that it was arranged directly with Cohen. A.M.I. was not party to the contracts between Cohen and Clifford that have been released.)
Two of the former A.M.I. employees said they believed that Cohen was in close contact with A.M.I. executives while the company’s reporters were looking into Sajudin’s story, as Cohen had been during other investigations related to Trump. “Cohen was kept up to date on a regular basis,” one source said. Contacted by telephone on Wednesday, Cohen said that he was not available to talk. Subsequent efforts to reach him were unsuccessful. On Monday, F.B.I. agents raided Cohen’s hotel and office. The Times reported that the agents were looking for records related to the payments to McDougal and Clifford, as well as correspondence between Cohen, Pecker, and Dylan Howard, A.M.I.’s chief content officer.
The White House declined to comment. A source close to the White House said that Trump “did not have an affair. This is a totally false accusation. And I’d refer you to A.M.I.”
Texts and e-mails from November of 2015 show that, before reporting was halted, the National Enquirer team was pursuing leads and trying to confirm Sajudin’s story. Reporters had staked out the homes of the alleged mother and daughter. The company had also hired an outside private investigator named Michael Mancuso, a former criminal investigator and the owner of Searching for the Truth Investigative Services, who administered the lie-detector test. (Mancuso declined a request for comment.) Lie-detector tests are notoriously flawed, and the test assessed only whether Sajudin had heard the story, not whether there was truth to the underlying claim.
Sharon Churcher, one of the lead A.M.I. reporters on the story, told me, “I do not believe that story was true. I believed from the beginning it was not true.” Other employees at A.M.I. had questions about Sajudin’s credibility. In 2014, a Web site registered through a service that obscures the identity of the author claimed that Sajudin had made similar accusations against a Trump Tower resident named Lawrence Penn III, and that those accusations were false. (Penn could not be reached for comment. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to securities fraud, and he is currently serving a six-year prison sentence. Penn’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.) When I reached out to Sajudin, he responded, in an e-mail, “My time is valuable. What’s your offer??” After being told that The New Yorker does not pay sources, Sajudin declined further requests for an interview.
Although many of the A.M.I. sources I spoke with expressed skepticism about Sajudin’s claims, all six agreed that A.M.I. made a concerted effort to shut down the story. Several said that they believed the coverup, rather than the story itself, was of public importance. One told me that, after the polygraph came back positive, “the decision was made at a high level to pay this source those funds and to put this thing to rest without an investigation taking place.” A.M.I.’s decision was unusual even in the context of the company’s other efforts to purchase stories in order to bury them, a practice known as “catch and kill.” Another source, who believed that A.M.I. suppressed the story to help Trump, said of Sajudin, “It’s unheard of to give a guy who calls A.M.I.’s tip line big bucks for information he is passing on secondhand. We didn’t pay thousands of dollars for non-stories, let alone tens of thousands. It was a highly curious and questionable situation.”
A.M.I. later attempted to prevent other outlets from reporting on the story or the company’s payout. In the summer of 2017, the Associated Press began investigating A.M.I.’s suppression of the story. At one point, reporters were hours away from posting a piece, but A.M.I. assembled a legal team to lobby against publication. The team included Lanny Davis, a crisis manager and longtime confidant of Bill and Hillary Clinton who did similar work on behalf of Harvey Weinstein. Davis and Howard met with a reporter, an editor, and a lawyer from the Associated Press. Citing attorney-client privilege, Davis said that he could not reveal the legal advice he gave Howard, but he described some of what happened in the meeting. Davis told me that Howard presented the A.P. with claims that cast doubt on Sajudin’s character, including the allegations on the anonymous Web site. “When Dylan told me he had these documents and he hoped he would kill the story, my opening statement was, ‘I am not here to kill any story. That’s not what I do for a living,’ ” Davis told me. “I encouraged my client, Mr. Howard, to reveal what he had about the source of the story.” Davis said he told the A.P., “It’s up to you to decide whether to write the story as a ‘he says, he says’ or not.” At the time, the A.P. did not run the story.
On Wednesday, thirty minutes after The New Yorker contacted A.M.I. for comment about the payment to Sajudin, Radar Online, an A.M.I. publication, posted a story acknowledging the thirty-thousand-dollar payment but saying that the former doorman’s story was false. The Radar Online piece quoted Howard saying, “When we realized we would be unable to publish, and other media outlets approached the source about his tale, we released Sajudin from the exclusivity clause that had accompanied his $30,000 payment, freeing him to tell his story to whomever he wanted.” Two A.M.I. employees told me that they’d never seen such a release during their time at the company. A.M.I. has said that Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model, has a similar amendment to her contract, but McDougal argues that the company continues to try to prevent her from talking to the press.
Early Thursday morning, shortly after the Radar Online piece, the A.P. ran a story describing the payment to Sajudin and the legal obstacles it encountered. “During AP’s reporting, AMI threatened legal action over reporters’ efforts to interview current and former employees and hired the New York law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which challenged the accuracy of the AP’s reporting,” the story said.
On the surface, it seems surprising that A.M.I. would pay a substantial sum of money for an unverified story. The National Enquirer’s circulation numbers suggest that the payouts to Sajudin and McDougal came at a time of declining circulation for the publication. Two A.M.I. sources said they believed that the catch-and-kill operations had cemented a partnership between Pecker and Trump, and that people close to the President had subsequently introduced Pecker to potential sources of funding for A.M.I. One A.M.I. source told me, “Pecker’s not going to take thirty thousand dollars from company funds to shut down a potentially damaging story about his buddy without making sure it got back to him so he could get credit.” In 2017, the company began acquiring new publications, including Us Weekly and Men’s Journal. According to the Times, last July Pecker visited the Oval Office and dined at the White House with a French businessman known for brokering deals with Saudi Arabia. Two months later, the businessman and Pecker met with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
McDougal is now suing A.M.I. Her complaint states that she was not aware that A.M.I. consulted with Cohen during her negotiations with the company, as was later reported by the Times, and argues that A.M.I. was attempting to “illegally influence the 2016 presidential election.” (A.M.I.’s lawyers, in a response, argued that the company’s actions were protected by the First Amendment and that it was being unfairly penalized for its editorial decision not to run a story.) Stephanie Clifford is suing Cohen for defamation and for a release from her nondisclosure agreement. Her suit alleges that Cohen’s payment was a violation of campaign-finance law, because it suppressed speech “on a matter of public concern about a candidate for President.” (Cohen has said that Clifford’s story is false and that he made the payment with his own money to protect Trump and his family. Trump has said that he did not know of the payment.)
A nonprofit watchdog organization and a left-leaning political group have filed formal complaints requesting that the Justice Department, the Office of Government Ethics, and the Federal Election Commission examine whether the payments to Clifford and McDougal violated federal election law, since Trump did not include them on his financial-disclosure forms. Federal election law bars individuals from making contributions of more than five thousand four hundred dollars to a candidate during an election cycle.
Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said of the payment to Sajudin, “As with the payment to Stormy Daniels and the McDougal matter, there’s certainly enough smoke here to merit further investigation. However, there are questions of both fact and law that would be relevant before concluding that there’s a likely campaign-finance violation.” One question would be whether the intent was to help the campaign. The timing, months after Trump announced his Presidential candidacy, could be “good circumstantial evidence” of that. Hasen added that the cases involving A.M.I. raised difficult legal questions, because media companies have various exemptions from campaign-finance law. However, he said, “If a corporation that has a press function is being used for non-press purposes to help a candidate win an election, then the press exemption would not apply to that activity.”
Stephen Braga, a white-collar-criminal-defense professor at the University of Virginia’s law school, told me that the payment had potential ramifications for ongoing criminal probes of Trump, particularly given the claims of Cohen’s involvement. “Now with this third event it looks more and more like there’s a pattern developing. That may be one of the things that the F.B.I. was trying to find evidence of with the search warrant,” he said. “The pattern seems to be ‘We use third-party intermediaries to pay off individuals with adverse information that may harm the President.’ That is just a shade away from what the special counsel will be looking for in terms of intent on the obstruction-of-justice investigation.”
In 2011, a federal grand jury in North Carolina indicted the former Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards for violating campaign-finance laws by “secretly obtaining and using” nearly a million dollars of political donations to conceal his mistress and their baby while he was running for President in the 2008 election. Edwards denied that the payments violated federal election law. A jury acquitted Edwards on one of the charges brought against him and deadlocked on the rest. Federal prosecutors dropped the case, but Edwards never returned to politics. Edwards’s affair, and the existence of his illegitimate child, were first reported by the National Enquirer.
We now know of three big payments to hush up Trump sex scandals.
Andrew ProkopApr 12, 2018, 11:20am EDT
Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at a Senate office building last year. Mark Wilson/Getty Images Three days after the FBI raided Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, one clear possibility of what they were looking for is beginning to emerge.
That possibility is this: investigators suspect there was a major, potentially illegal, off-the-books spending operation aimed at making problems for Donald Trump’s campaign go away — and they’re wondering what Trump himself knew about it, or even whether he orchestrated it.
Consider the following. Agents wanted information on Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels. They wanted information Cohen might have on a payment of $150,000 to Karen McDougal, shelled out by the National Enquirer’s parent company. They wanted information on a potential effort to prevent the release of Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” tape.
More broadly, the search warrant asked for Cohen’s communications with Trump himself, and other Trump associates, about “potential sources of negative publicity” before the election. It also asked for all communications between Cohen and two top National Enquirer figures, David Pecker and Dylan Howard.
Consider also the Washington Post’s report that Cohen is under investigation for “possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations,” along with the background information that raiding a lawyer’s office and targeting his communications with his client is an extremely serious matter unlikely to be carried out lightly.
Now recall, per Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, that Steve Bannon has bragged the Trump campaign “took care” of about “a hundred women.” (I’m assuming that number is hyperbole, but here’s what Bannon said.)
Bannon had previously bonded with [Marc] Kasowitz when the attorney had handled a series of near-death problems on the campaign, including dealing with a vast number of allegations and legal threats from an ever growing list of women accusing Trump of molesting and harassing them.
... “Look, Kasowitz has known him for twenty-five years. Kasowitz has gotten him out of all kinds of jams. Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.”
We now know how two women — Daniels and McDougal — were taken care of by Trump’s allies: they were paid off with a combined $280,000. We’ve also learned of an earlier payment from the same media company that paid McDougal: $30,000 to hush up a former Trump building doorman who claimed he knew about a Trump love child.
Viewed together, all this looks a bit like a shadowy and very well-funded effort to hush up problems for Trump — one that certainly does not seem to have abided by campaign finance disclosure and contribution limit laws. And it leaves several more questions.
How many other, similar payments were there? For instance, the search warrant reportedly seemed to allude to efforts to prevent the Access Hollywood tape from coming out — if that happened, what did it entail?
Where exactly, was this money coming from? Solely Michael Cohen and American Media Inc., as claimed? Does it trace back to Trump himself, or companies controlled by him? The Trump campaign? Or could funds be coming from some other wealthy figure?
And if the funds aren’t coming from Trump, then why are others doing these extremely expensive favors for a billionaire presidential candidate? Were they looking to be repaid later on? Seeking “leverage” over him, as the Associated Press hypothetically suggests? None of the possibilities look good.
What we know about the payments or potential suppression efforts
1) $30,000 for a doorman: The first known payment of this kind was negotiated in November 2015, as Trump led national polls for the Republican presidential primary. Two new reports from the AP’s Jake Pearson and Jeff Horwitz and the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow describe what happened.
Reporters for the National Enquirer got a tip from Dino Sajudin, a former doorman of a Trump building, that Trump may have fathered a child out of wedlock back in the 1980s with a former employee of his. Sajudin gave them names, and the Enquirer’s reporters started to chase down the story.
The Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., paid Sajudin $30,000 for exclusive rights to his tale. The company reached out to talk with Trump representatives about the allegations. And then they ... did nothing. Four longtime Enquirer employees told Pearson and Horwitz that “they were ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story.” (AMI says they simply determined the story wasn’t credible.)
2) $150,000 for Karen McDougal: Eight months later, in August 2016, came AMI’s even larger payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who was alleging an affair with Trump. This was $150,000 for exclusive rights to McDougal’s story, which was never published. That is a whole lot of money to spend to not publish a story in the National Enquirer. And emails show that Michael Cohen was in the loop about AMI’s talks with McDougal.
3) Possible behind-the-scenes efforts regarding the Access Hollywood tape: The Access Hollywood tape is, of course, the 2005 recording in which Trump told Access Hollywood anchor Billy Bush that he enjoyed grabbing women “by the pussy”:
You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.
It was on Monday, October 3, that a producer for the NBC show reportedly discovered the notorious tape in the archives. But days passed without any story being published about it. (NBC claims it was preparing a story and lawyers were reviewing it.) Finally, after four days, someone decided to send the tape to the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who ended up scooping NBC on its own recording.
The reports on the raid suggest investigators were looking for evidence that Cohen might have of some sort of behind-the-scenes Trump team effort to prevent the tape from going public — and that they’re at least wondering whether Trump himself was involved. CNN’s Gloria Borger and Shimon Prokupecz reported that agents specifically sought communications between Cohen, Trump, and Trump associates about the tape.
4) $130,000 for Stormy Daniels: Finally, there is the Stormy Daniels money — $130,000, from a shell company set up by Cohen, a little over a week before the election, once again to get a woman to agree not to come forward with her story.
At the time, Cohen was executive vice president and special counsel for the Trump Organization. He set up a shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, to handle the payment. But he emailed a bank employee about the money from his official Trump Organization email account.
Cohen has said he got the money by taking it out of his own home equity line. He’s also said that neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign reimbursed him for the money, which leaves open several other obvious possibilities (Trump himself or other entities controlled by Trump or his allies). Yet Trump said last week that he didn’t know about the payment for Daniels. “You’ll have to ask Michael,” he said.
Cohen tries to solve problems for Trump — and also handles large sums of money
Michael Cohen has long been straightforward about what he does for Donald Trump. “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he said in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.” Sometimes he does that by threatening lawsuits, sometimes by ranting profanely at reporters.
But Cohen is also used to handling large sums of money. He’s a guy who once cashed a check for $350,000 from an NHL star, but later claimed in a deposition that he had no idea what happened to the money afterward. And, of course, he’s the sort of guy who pays Stormy Daniels $130,000.
The search warrants for the raid reportedly target Cohen’s communications with Trump on many of these matters. Trump has responded to this with fury, tweeting, “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” But as many have pointed out, attorney-client privilege doesn’t apply if the attorney is conspiring to help his client commit crimes or fraud. So if Trump was involved to some degree in these payments, and they did run afoul of banking or campaign finance laws, that could be a very big problem for the president. https://www.vox.com/2018/4/12/17226314/ ... l-enquirer
All of this misogyny is making me nostalgic for treason #WhyIDidntReport ‘empowerment through empathy’ #metoo.”
on trump/russia "Colluded" is only a word confused people use The word and crime is conspiracy
Polly Sigh Scoop: Trump’s allies worry that federal investigators seized recordings made by his personal attorney Michael Cohen, who was known to store conversations as digital files & replay them for colleagues, even convos w/other top Trump advisers. OMG
Trump's lawyer Cohen arranged $1.6 million payout to Playmate after affair with top GOP donor led to abortion
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arranged for a $1.6 million hush payout to a former Playboy model on behalf of Elliott Broidy, a top donor to the Republican Party who had impregnated her last year.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Broidy has admitted that he had a relationship with the woman, who subsequently had an abortion to terminate her pregnancy.
“I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” Broidy told the Wall Street Journal. “At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”
According to the non-disclosure agreement described by the WSJ’s sources, the woman says that the 60-year-old Broidy paid her money in exchange for an exclusive sexual relationship that lasted more than a year.
The contract states that she had the right to seek child support payments if she chose to carry out the pregnancy, although she ultimately decided to have an abortion.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen under criminal investigation
President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months, largely centering around his business dealings, federal prosecutors in New York said in court documents obtained by ABC News.
Add Donald Trump as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Donald Trump news, video, and analysis from ABC News. Today, prosecutors acknowledged publicly for the first time Friday that they seized records this week from Cohen.
The revelation came as Cohen and Trump sought a court order barring federal prosecutors from accessing the records they took during raids on his home and office Monday morning.
Lawyers for Cohen and Trump, neither of whom was present in court, argue that at least some of the records are subject to attorney-client privilege and should not be viewed by prosecutors until they, or an independent third party appointed by the court, have a chance to review the material.
In raid on Trump lawyer, feds sought records from deals with women, media and campaign: Sources 'Start Here' podcast: We called Cohen Trump-appointed US attorney recused from Michael Cohen investigation Cohen "applied [Thursday] evening for an opportunity to take the first cut" at determining whether the documents are privileged or relevant to the investigation, Judge Kimba Wood said. "Both parties recognize the search of an attorney's devices and offices are subject to special consideration."
A hearing Friday in Manhattan federal court was put on hold until Monday after an attorney for Trump intervened and requested additional time.
"He as an acute interest in these proceedings," said Joanna Hendon, an attorney for the president who said she was hired Wednesday night.
Hendon noted the "exceptional nature" of her client and expressed concern about the prosecutors' internal "taint team" that separates evidence that is privileged from evidence that is available for prosecutors to view.
"We don't need to rush," Hendon said. "There is an appearance of fairness problem."
A taint team is a group of people who help determine what falls under attorney-client privilege and should not be shared with investigators. It's standard when searching a lawyer's office.
“The government’s use of a filter team appropriately protects applicable privileges," the court documents obtained by ABC News state.
Cohen “is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings,” according to court documents.
Cohen has not been charged with anything. He has not responded to news he is under investigation, declining to comment when contacted by ABC News.
Thomas McKay, one of the prosecutors handling the case, said the president's attorney-client privileges are no different than anyone else's. He accused the president and Cohen of delay tactics but promised prosecutors would not view any of the seized material until the judge makes her ruling following the hearing on Monday.
Also at issue was how much of this dispute will happen in open court. News organizations objected to parts of the hearing -- originally scheduled without notice -- taking place outside of public earshot.
“I don’t take this position lightly,” said Wood.
Rachel Strom, an attorney for ABC News, successfully argued to keep most of the hearing open to the public.
The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.
Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”
McClatchy says DOJ has evidence Cohen did go to Prague during the election, despite his adamant denials.
Sources: Mueller has evidence Cohen was in Prague in 2016, confirming part of dossier
By Peter Stone And Greg Gordon
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, around the time a British spy says Cohen met with a Kremlin official there to discuss Russian interference in the U.S. election, sources have told McClatchy. Cohen, pictured on April 11, 2018, has vehemently denied ever visiting Prague. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, around the time a British spy says Cohen met with a Kremlin official there to discuss Russian interference in the U.S. election, sources have told McClatchy. Cohen, pictured on April 11, 2018, has vehemently denied ever visiting Prague. Mary Altaffer AP The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.
Trump’s threats to fire Mueller or the deputy attorney general overseeing the investigation, Rod Rosenstein, grew louder this week when the FBI raided Cohen’s home, hotel room and office on Monday. The raid was unrelated to the Trump-Russia collusion probe, but instead focused on payments made to women who have said they had sexual relationships with Trump.
Cohen has vehemently denied for months that he ever has been in Prague or colluded with Russia during the campaign. Neither he nor his lawyer responded to requests for comment for this story.
It’s unclear whether Mueller’s investigators also have evidence that Cohen actually met with a prominent Russian – purportedly Konstantin Kosachev, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — in the Czech capital. Kosachev, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of a body of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, also has denied visiting Prague during 2016. Earlier this month, Kosachev was among 24 high-profile Russians hit with stiff U.S. sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s meddling.
But investigators have traced evidence that Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016 as the ex-spy reported, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential. He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders. The disclosure still left a puzzle: The sources did not say whether Cohen took a commercial flight or private jet to Europe, and gave no explanation as to why no record of such a trip has surfaced.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller’s office, declined comment.
Unconfirmed reports of a clandestine Prague meeting came to public attention in January 2017, with the publication of a dossier purporting to detail the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia – a series of reports that former British MI6 officer Christopher Steele gathered from Kremlin sources for Trump’s political opponents, including Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Cohen’s alleged communications with the Russians were mentioned multiple times in Steele’s reports, which he ultimately shared with the FBI.
When the news site Buzzfeed published the entire dossier on Jan. 11, Trump denounced the news organization as “a failing pile of garbage” and said the document was “false and fake.” Cohen tweeted, “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.”
In the ensuing months, he allowed Buzzfeed to inspect his passport and tweeted: “The #Russian dossier is WRONG!”
Last August, an attorney for Cohen, Stephen Ryan, delivered to Congress a point-by-point rebuttal of the dossier’s allegations, stating: “Mr. Cohen is not aware of any ‘secret TRUMP campaign/Kremlin relationship.’”
However, Democratic investigators for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which are conducting parallel inquiries into Russia’s election interference, also are skeptical about whether Cohen was truthful about his 2016 travels to Europe when he was interviewed by the panels last October, two people familiar with those probes told McClatchy this week. Cohen has publicly acknowledged making three trips to Europe that year – to Italy in July, England in early October and a third after Trump’s November election. The investigators intend to press Cohen for more information, said the sources, who lacked authorization to speak for the record
One of the sources said congressional investigators have “a high level of interest” in Cohen’s European travel, with their doubts fueled by what they deem to be weak documentation Cohen has provided about his whereabouts around the time the Prague meeting was supposed to have occurred.
Cohen has said he was only in New York and briefly in Los Angeles during August, when the meeting may have occurred, though the sources said it also could have been held in early September.
Evidence that Cohen was in Prague “certainly helps undermine his credibility,” said Jill Wine-Banks, a former Watergate prosecutor who lives in Chicago. “It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.”
It doesn’t matter who he met with. His denial was that I was never in Prague. Having proof that he was is, for most people, going to be more than enough to say I don’t believe anything else he says.
Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks
“I think that, given the relationship between Michael Cohen and the president,” Wine-Banks said, “it’s not believable that Michael Cohen did not tell him about his trip to Prague.”
The dossier alleges that Cohen, two Russians and several Eastern European hackers met at the Prague office of a Russian government-backed social and cultural organization, Rossotrudnichestvo. The location was selected to provide an alternative explanation in case the rendezvous was exposed, according to Steele’s Kremlin sources, cultivated during 20 years of spying on Russia. It said that Oleg Solodukhin, the deputy chief of Rossotrudnichestvo’s operation in the Czech Republic, attended the meeting, too.
Further, it alleges that Cohen, Kosachev and other attendees discussed “how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”
U.S. intelligence agencies and cyber experts say Kremlin-backed hackers pirated copies of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta during 2015 and 2016, some politically damaging, including messages showing that the DNC was biased toward Clinton in the party’s nomination battle pitting her against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Mueller’s investigators have sought to learn who passed the emails to WikiLeaks, a London-based transparency group, which published them in July and October, causing embarrassment to Clinton and her backers.
Citing information from an unnamed “Kremlin insider,” Steele’s dossier says the Prague meeting agenda also included discussion “in cryptic language for security reasons,” of ways to “sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven.” Romanians were among the hackers present, it says, and the discussion touched on using Bulgaria as a location where they could “lie low.”
It is a felony for anyone to hack email accounts. Other laws forbid foreigners from contributing cash or in-kind services to U.S. political campaigns.
If Cohen met with Russians and hackers in Prague as described in the dossier, it would provide perhaps the most compelling evidence to date that the Russians and Trump campaign aides were collaborating. Mueller’s office also has focused on two meetings in the spring of 2016 when Russians offered to provide Trump campaign aides with “dirt” on Clinton – thousands of emails in one of the offers.
Cohen is already in the spotlight because of the FBI raids on his offices and home in New York. Various news outlets have reported that investigators principally sought evidence on non-Russia matters, including a covert, $130,000 payment Cohen made days before the 2016 election to porn star Stormy Daniels to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump. The FBI raids also scooped up some of Cohen's computers and cell phones among other evidence, according to these reports.
CNN, which reported Friday that Cohen’s business dealings have been a subject of a separate months-long investigation by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, also quoted sources as saying that Cohen often taped phone conversations and those tapes also could be in the FBI’s possession.
If the raids turned up evidence that would be useful to Mueller’s investigation, rather than the one being done in New York, it would be shared with Mueller’s team, unless a court imposes conditions regarding the transfer of evidence, said former senior Justice Department official Michael Zeldin. “Given the sensitivities in this case, I expect evidentiary sharing decisions will be mediated by main DOJ and FBI headquarters,” Zeldin said.
Prior to Trump’s election, Cohen spent almost a decade in high-profile positions in Trump’s real estate company and grew a reputation as Trump’s “fixer.” During 2016, he was an informal adviser to the Trump campaign, proving to be one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in television interviews.
When Trump took office, Cohen became Trump’s personal attorney.
He also formed a law firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates, which in April forged a strategic alliance with the powerful Washington lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs. With headlines blaring about Cohen’s role in providing hush money to Daniels, the two firms disclosed this week they had parted company.
Soon after Trump took office, Cohen became embroiled in controversy when The New York Times reported he was involved in promoting a secret “peace plan” for Ukraine and Russia that was the brainchild of a little-known Ukrainian legislator, Andrii Artemenko. The plan would have ended U.S. sanctions against Moscow and allowed Russia, if it pulled back militants invading Ukraine, to keep control of Crimea under a 50- to 100-year lease, if voters approved.
In February 2017, he told the newspaper, he left it on the desk of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who resigned days later and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador. But in subsequent interviews, Cohen denied ever delivering the plan to the White House.
Knowledge that Cohen may indeed have traveled to Prague during the campaign could heighten Trump’s risk of being prosecuted for obstruction of justice if news reports are accurate that he is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation, or Mueller.
“This kind of knowledge impacts his state of mind in taking any action in firing anyone from the Justice Department or Mueller’s office,” Wine-Banks said, because it would be easier for prosecutors to build a criminal case showing he did so to impede Mueller’s investigation.
If the Prague meeting actually occurred, Kosachev’s possible involvement would be especially significant given his close ties to Putin and other roles he has played in covert Moscow efforts to destabilize other countries, Russia experts said.
“While not a member of Putin's innermost circle, (Kosachev) is one of the most influential Russian voices on foreign affairs,” said Michael Carpenter, a former senior Pentagon official. “When Kosachev speaks, everyone knows he's speaking for the Kremlin.”
Kosachev appears to have been a booster of Trump over Clinton in early June of 2016, according to a post on his Facebook page at the time.
“Trump looks slightly more promising,” Kosachev wrote. “At least, he is capable of giving a shake to Washington. He is certainly a pragmatist and not a missionary like his main opponent [Hillary] Clinton.”
The Prague meeting would have occurred during a period when Trump advisers had become jittery about publicity swirling around the campaign’s Russian connections and seemingly friendly posture toward Moscow, according to the dossier and a source familiar with the federal investigation.
Campaign chairman Paul Manafort resigned abruptly on Aug. 19, shortly after the revelation that he had received $12.7 million in secret consulting fees over five years from the pro-Russia Party of Regions in Ukraine. Manafort was instrumental in the 2010 election of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in early 2014 and fled to Moscow.
Another flap stemmed from a secretive maneuver at the Republican National Convention in July. Party officials weakened language in the 2016 Republican platform calling for a boost in U.S. military aid to support Ukraine’s fight with Russian-backed separatists who invaded Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
The dossier cited multiple sources as reporting that Kremlin officials also had grown edgy about the possible exposure of their secret “active measures” effort to defeat Clinton and help Trump. According to the dossier, Russian diplomat Mikhail Kalugin was brought home from Russia’s embassy in Washington last August because he had played a key role in coordinating the cyber offensive. McClatchy quoted several Russia experts on Feb. 15 as saying they suspected Kalugin was an intelligence operative. Kalugin has denied any espionage activities.
Cohen’s attendance at a Prague meeting like the one described in the dossier would have been a logical assignment for him; Trump had long used him to solve business and legal headaches, three Republican operatives who were close to the campaign said.
One source with close ties to the campaign said Cohen “wanted a bigger and more formal role [in the campaign], but there were a lot of long knives out for him within the campaign and the larger GOP infrastructure in part because he was a Democrat and treated people horribly.”
Cohen was best known during the 2016 campaign for his testy interviews defending Trump. In one case, when an interviewer cited poor polling numbers for Trump. Cohen kept aggressively asking, “Says who?”
Beginning last year, he took a hand in fundraising for the Republican National Committee and Trump’s re-election campaign. Cohen was one of four co-chairs of a big fundraiser at the Trump International hotel in mid-2017 that raised about $10 million for the two committees. In April 2017, Cohen was named a national deputy finance chairman at the RNC, not long after his March announcement that he had officially registered as a Republican.
A millionaire with his own New York real estate holdings, Cohen has long had family and business ties to Ukraine. His wife is Ukrainian, and he has had ties to Ukrainian ethanol company. He also once ran a thriving taxi business.
Cohen under NY rules; there’s a conflict now that can’t be waived.
FBI seized recordings between Trump's lawyer and Stormy Daniels' former lawyer
(CNN)The FBI seized recordings President Donald Trump's attorney made of his conversations with a lawyer representing two women who had alleged affairs with Trump, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.
The recordings could prove valuable to the government's criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. The President's personal attorney is under scrutiny in part for his role in seeking to suppress the alleged affair through a hush deal with porn star Stormy Daniels. The warrant sought information about that payment along with any information that connected Cohen with efforts to suppress disclosure of Trump's alleged affair with Playboy model Karen McDougal.
The warrant for the raids also specified that Cohen was being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance issues, CNN reported earlier this week.
Trump called attorney Michael Cohen on Friday While Cohen has admitted to no wrongdoing, the intensity of the government's investigation will put significant pressure on one of the President's closest confidants. If Cohen chooses to cooperate rather than fight a potential case against him, then his knowledge about the President's activities could create serious problems for Trump as special counsel Robert Mueller continues his investigation.
The source said Cohen recorded some calls he had with attorney Keith Davidson, who at the time represented both Daniels and McDougal. Davidson no longer represents either woman. Their deals to keep their stories about alleged affairs quiet are now the subject of litigation, with each seeking to be released from their agreements.
Another source tells CNN that in at least one conversation between the two men, "Cohen was being unusually simplistic, like he had bullet points that he was reading from to try and make himself look good. He was trying to clarify the timeline of the agreements made with Davidson in his (Cohen's) favor."
Michael Cohen facilitated $1.6 million agreement on behalf of GOP fundraiser "Attorney Davidson never consented to any recordings of his conversations with Mr. Cohen. If they in fact do exist, Attorney Davidson will pursue all his legal rights under the law," Dave Wedge, a spokesman for Davidson, said. Recording phone conversations without the consent of both parties could be a legal issue if Davidson was in a state that has such laws, like California.
Cohen's attorney and a spokesman for Cohen's attorney did not reply to requests for comment.
Prosecutors are "going to be very excited at the prospect of having an independent means of corroborating what was said between the two parties," CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin said. "If all that stuff gets recorded, then they are in deep hurt because if it was just oral between them, it could be a conspiracy of liars but the tapes undermine that."
FBI may have seized recorded conversations from Trump's attorney Zeldin said a conversation between attorneys for different clients would most likely not be considered covered by attorney-client privilege.
McDougal alleges in a lawsuit that Cohen has a cozy relationship with Davidson. She argues Davidson was part of a "broad effort to silence and intimidate her and others." Davidson denies that claim.
In an exclusive interview with CNN last month, Davidson described several calls he had with Cohen about striking a deal for Daniels to keep her story quiet. Davidson also said he was contacted in recent weeks by Cohen, who encouraged him to go out and reveal what he knew about his clients and their agreements. Davidson said Cohen argued that the women had waived attorney-client privilege by going public with their stories.
Stormy Daniels cooperating with federal investigators following Cohen raid "He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts," Davidson said.
There was no discussion of recordings during a court hearing on Friday to argue over Cohen's filing of a temporary restraining order that seeks to suppress the evidence gathered in the raid.
The Davidson recordings may not be the only conversations the FBI gathered in the raid. Cohen often recorded telephone conversations both before and during the 2016 presidential campaign that also could have been scooped up in the FBI raid on his apartment, office and hotel room, sources told CNN. One source said Cohen played to Trump and some associates conversations that he had with political and media figures during the exploratory part of the campaign. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/13/politics ... olitics=Tw
Rotem Rosen (sitting at right of Cohen) is blood diamond mogul/smuggler Leviev’s pal, CEO of AFI-USA, biz partner and brother-in-law of Alex Sapir, son of now-deceased Tamir Sapir, owner of Sapir Organization that partnered with Trump and Bayrock.
Tom Arnold Retweeted Michael Cohen I'm suspicious. Only a guilty man names his kid Proven! @MichaelCohen212 did you tape any convos with David Pecker or Dylan Howard about the Melania Elevator Tape? Peter Thiel? Elliott Broidy? Charles Harder? Melissa Dagadag? Your next tweet should be an apology to Keith Davidson
Michael Cohen @MichaelCohen212 Follow Follow @MichaelCohen212
Bad reporting, bad information and bad story by same reporter Peter Stone @McClatchyDC. No matter how many times or ways they write it, I have never been to Prague. I was in LA with my son. Proven!
Cohen: I am the subject of target of a federal Investigstion Trump: I am also bigly a subject of one or more federal investigations Cohen: let us discuss it on our phones even though it makes our lawyers cry Trump: legal advice is cuck Cohen: also I am recording this
All of this misogyny is making me nostalgic for treason #WhyIDidntReport ‘empowerment through empathy’ #metoo.”
on trump/russia "Colluded" is only a word confused people use The word and crime is conspiracy