Michael Avenatti See below. Weeks ago I described Mr. Cohen as “radioactive.” I was right then and I am especially right now. The fallout has only just begun.
Novartis Top Lawyer Departs Over Cohen Payments
Felix Ehrat was a co-signatory of the agreement to hire Trump’s personal lawyer for $100,000 a month
Max BernhardUpdated May 16, 2018 5:25 a.m. ET
Novartis made payments of $100,000 a month to Mr. Cohen’s company for insight into health-care policy under a one-year contract that ended in February. Photo: arnd wiegmann/Reuters
ZURICH—A top executive at Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG is stepping down as the global fallout widens from the recent disclosure of payments to a company owned by U.S. President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer.
Novartis said Wednesday that general counsel Felix Ehrat, 61 years old, is retiring from the company in connection with $1.2 million in payments it made over the course of a year to Michael Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC.
It was the second high-profile ouster in less than a week in relation to payments to the company. AT&T Inc., which paid Mr. Cohen’s company $600,000 last year, said Friday that hiring him as a political consultant was a “big mistake” and ousted its top Washington executive, Bob Quinn.
Novartis has said the payments, made in $100,000 monthly installments under a contract that ended in February, were aimed at gaining insight into U.S. health-care policy. Novartis Chief Executive Vasant Narasimhan last week called the agreement a mistake and denied any involvement himself.
The company said Wednesday that Mr. Narasimhan’s predecessor, Joseph Jimenez, signed off on the arrangement.
Mr. Jimenez, who stepped down in January, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week’s disclosure is an embarrassment for Novartis, having spent shareholder money on Mr. Cohen, who appears to have produced little help.
“Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” Mr. Ehrat said in a statement released by Novartis on Wednesday. “As a co-signatory with our former CEO, I take personal responsibility to bring the public debate on this matter to an end.”
Novartis, one of the world’s biggest drug companies by sales, said last week that its aim was to gain better understanding of Trump administration policy-making, especially regarding matters like the status of the Affordable Care Act. But it realized from its first meeting in March 2017 that it wouldn’t be helpful and stopped engaging with Mr. Cohen. The company said it determined it couldn’t scrap the contract and continued making the payments.
Essential Consultants is the same firm Mr. Cohen used to pay $130,000 to a former adult-film actress, who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, in October 2016 to keep her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen deny the encounter took place.
Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records
A law-enforcement official released the documents after finding that additional suspicious transactions did not appear in a government database.
Ronan Farrow Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.
The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The report also refers to two previous suspicious-activity reports, or SARs, that the bank had filed, which documented even larger flows of questionable money into Cohen’s account. Those two reports detail more than three million dollars in additional transactions—triple the amount in the report released last week. Which individuals or corporations were involved remains a mystery. But, according to the official who leaked the report, these SARs were absent from the database maintained by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. The official, who has spent a career in law enforcement, told me, “I have never seen something pulled off the system. . . . That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.” The official added, “That’s why I came forward.”
Seven former government officials and other experts familiar with the Treasury Department’s FinCEN database expressed varying levels of concern about the missing reports. Some speculated that FinCEN may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on FinCEN’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the FinCEN database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to SARs. She speculated that FinCEN may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to FinCEN to ask to limit disclosure of certain SARs related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.” (The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. The Southern District is investigating Cohen, and the F.B.I. raided his office and hotel room last month.)
Whatever the explanation for the missing reports, the appearance that some, but not all, had been removed or restricted troubled the official who released the report last week. “Why just those two missing?” the official, who feared that the contents of those two reports might be permanently withheld, said. “That’s what alarms me the most.”
FinCEN said in a statement that it protects the confidentiality of SARs “in order to protect both filers and potentially named individuals.” The statement added, “FinCEN neither confirms nor denies the existence of purported SARs.” Spokespeople for the special counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York declined to comment. Michael Cohen and his lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.
Banks are legally mandated to file suspicious-activity reports with the government in order to call attention to activity that resembles money laundering, fraud, and other criminal conduct. These reports are routed to a permanent database maintained by FinCEN, which can be searched by tens of thousands of law-enforcement and other federal government personnel. The reports are a routine response to any financial activity that appears suspicious. They are not proof of criminal activity, and often do not result in criminal charges, though the information in them can be used in law-enforcement proceedings. “This is a permanent record. They should be there,” the official, who described an exhaustive search for the reports, said. “And there is nothing there.”
Cohen set up the First Republic account for Essential Consultants in October, 2016, shortly before the Presidential election, in order to pay the adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, a hundred and thirty thousand dollars in return for signing a nondisclosure agreement about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. First Republic’s compliance officers later began flagging Cohen’s transactions in the account as possible signs of money laundering. Among other potential violations, the documents cite “suspicion concerning the source of funds,” “suspicious EFT/ wire transfers,” “suspicious use of multiple accounts,” and “transaction with no apparent economic, business, or lawful purpose.” (A spokesperson for First Republic Bank declined to comment.)
By January of this year, First Republic had filed the three suspicious-activity reports about Cohen’s account. The most recent report—the only one made public so far—examined Cohen’s transactions from September of 2017 to January of 2018, and included activity totalling almost a million dollars. It alludes to the two previous reports that the official could not find in the FinCEN database. The first report that the official was unable to locate, which covered almost seven months, appears to have listed a little over a million dollars in activity. The second report that the official was unable to locate, which investigated a three-month period between June and September of 2017, found suspect transfers totalling more than two million dollars.
A substantial portion of this money seems to have ended up in Cohen’s personal accounts. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney filed a separate SAR showing that, during that same three-month period, Cohen set up two accounts with the firm, into which he deposited three checks from his Essential Consultants account, two in the amount of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and one in the amount of five hundred and five thousand dollars. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney marked those transactions, which added up to more than a million dollars, as possible signs of “bribery or gratuity” and “suspicious use of third-party transactors (straw-man).”
Cohen appears to have misled First Republic repeatedly regarding the purpose of the Essential Consultants account. In paperwork filed with the bank, he said that the company would be devoted to using “his experience in real estate to consult on commercial and residential” deals. Cohen told the bank that his transactions would be modest, and based within the United States. In fact, the compliance officers wrote, “a significant portion of the target account deposits continue to originate from entities that have no apparent connection to real estate or apparent need to engage Cohen as a real estate consultant.” Likewise, “a significant portion of the deposits continues to be derived from foreign entities.” David Murray, a former Treasury official focussed on illicit finance, told me, “There are a ton of red flags here. The pattern of activity has indicators that are inherently suspicious, and the volume and source of funds do not match the account profile that was built when the account was opened.”
The report released last week highlights a payment from Cohen’s account to Demeter Direct, Inc. In publicly filed paperwork, Demeter Direct represents itself as a Korean food company. However, a Web site, since taken down, suggested that it was a global consulting firm. After the press began scrutinizing Cohen’s accounts, a man listed as Demeter Direct’s C.E.O., Mark Ko, told CNN that he served as an intermediary and translator in Cohen’s dealings with an aviation firm, majority-owned by South Korea’s government, called Korea Aerospace Industries. According to the First Republic report, the aerospace company paid Cohen a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in November of 2017, the same month President Trump visited South Korea. At the time, the company was lobbying for a controversial multibillion-dollar contract with the U.S. Air Force.
The report also shows how Cohen apparently used the Essential Consultants account for personal expenses. He seems to have used it to pay his American Express, A.T. & T., and Mercedes Benz bills, marking account numbers on the memo lines of his checks. He paid initiation fees and dues to the Core Club, a social club that the Times once described as a “portal to power.” He also cut himself multiple personal checks from Essential Consultants, amounting to more than a hundred thousand dollars, on top of the million he had already deposited into his Morgan Stanley accounts.
In many cases, the suspicious-activity reports highlight activity of potential interest to ongoing investigations, including that of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Bank compliance officers noted eight payments from a company called Columbus Nova to Cohen’s account between January and August of 2017, totalling five hundred thousand dollars. The investigators wrote that Columbus Nova’s biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, whom they described as “reputed to be a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” The report also points out that Andrew Intrater, Vekselberg’s relative and the C.E.O. of Columbus Nova, donated more than three hundred thousand dollars to Trump-related causes. The report flagged the activity as suspicious “because the CEO’s company transferred substantial funds to the personal attorney of Trump at the same time the CEO reportedly donated substantial funds to Trump’s inauguration fund and joint fundraising committee for Trump’s reelection and the Republican National Committee.”
Other banks also noticed Cohen’s suspicious transactions and filed their own SARs about his activity. Some of those show the banks piecing together the reasons for the transactions from news reports, citing articles from publications including the Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair about Trump, Russia, and secret election-season payments, including the payment to Clifford. One, filed by City National Bank, follows money paid to Cohen by Elliott Broidy, at the time the deputy finance chairman for the Republican National Committee. The report notes, “Broidy also owns a private security company, Circinus, which provides services to the U.S. and other governments. The company has hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts with the U.A.E.” Broidy has said that Cohen and another lawyer, Keith Davidson, worked out a deal in which Broidy would pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model he had impregnated. Broidy appears to have paid both lawyers for arranging the deal. The City National report shows that Broidy funnelled the payments through Real Estate Attorneys’ Group, a legal corporation. Broidy seems to have paid Davidson two hundred thousand dollars, and to have sent three payments, of $62,500 each, to Cohen—one to the Essential Consultants account and two to the account of Michael D. Cohen and Associates.
A representative for Broidy said that this description of the payments was “not correct,” and that “Mr. Broidy is not going to detail his payments for legal services to Mr. Cohen.” The representative added, “Mr. Broidy did not pay Mr. Davidson.” However, the City National report shows that on November 30, 2017, a wire of two hundred thousand dollars was received by the Real Estate Attorneys’ Group from Broidy. Then, on December 5, 2017, two hundred thousand dollars were transferred from Real Estate Attorneys’ Group to an account belonging to Keith M. Davidson and Associates.
Michael Avenatti, an attorney representing Clifford, who has released summaries of Cohen’s transactions on social media, said, “The Treasury Department should release all of the SARs immediately to the American public.”
Suspicious-activity reports are kept strictly confidential, as a matter of law. “SARs are secret, to protect the government and to protect financial institutions,” the former prosecutor told me. “I don’t think there’s a safe harbor for somebody who discloses it.” According to FinCEN, disclosing a SAR is a federal offense, carrying penalties including fines of up to two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and imprisonment for up to five years. The official who released the suspicious-activity reports was aware of the risks, but said fears that the missing reports might be suppressed compelled the disclosure. “We’ve accepted this as normal, and this is not normal,” the official said. “Things that stand out as abnormal, like documents being removed from a system, are of grave concern to me.” Of the potential for legal consequences, the official said, “To say that I am terrified right now would be an understatement.” But, referring to the released report, as well as the potential contents of the missing reports, the official also added, “This is a terrifying time to be an American, to be in this situation, and to watch all of this unfold.” https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-des ... op_VigLink
Michael Cohen's efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow went on longer than he has previously acknowledged
President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, center, leaves a courthouse in New York on April 26, 2018. (Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images) WASHINGTON — Prosecutors and congressional investigators have obtained text messages and emails showing that President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was working on a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow far later than Cohen has previously acknowledged. The communications show that as late as May 2016, around the time Trump was clinching the Republican nomination, Cohen was considering a trip to Russia to meet about the project with high-level government officials, business leaders and bankers.
Cohen has said that, beginning in September 2015, he worked with a Russian-born developer named Felix Sater to build a luxury hotel, office, and apartment complex called Trump World Tower Moscow. In a statement to Congress, Cohen claimed he gave up on the project in late January 2016, when he determined the “proposal was not feasible for a variety of business reasons and should not be pursued further.”
However, Yahoo News has learned that text messages and emails that Sater provided to the government seem to contradict Cohen’s version of events. The communications show Cohen was discussing the deal until at least May 2016.
Multiple sources have described to Yahoo News the texts and emails with Cohen that Sater has provided to the government. Sater confirmed to Yahoo News that he provided all of his texts and emails with Cohen to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as well as to the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate’s Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Sater also confirmed that his communications chronicled his extensive efforts to get the tower built.
“I was trying to build the tallest tower in Europe. For me, it was a business transaction,” Sater told Yahoo News.
“I have fully cooperated with every investigation and every committee. I have provided absolutely everything voluntarily, and not under subpoena, that was asked of me and will continue to willingly cooperate. All my communications show I was tenaciously trying to get a supertall tower built and nothing else.”
President Trump and real estate developers Tevfik Arif and Felix Sater attend the Trump Soho Launch Party on Sept. 19, 2007, in New York. (Photo: Mark Von Holden/WireImage) Cohen and his attorneys have not responded to requests for comment on this story.
Mueller’s probe into Russian intervention in the 2016 election has increasingly turned its focus on Cohen, who spent over a decade as an executive at Trump’s company and became one of the future president’s closest confidantes. Cohen left the Trump Organization after Trump’s election, but he remained the president’s personal lawyer.
Sources familiar with the Mueller investigation have previously told Yahoo News that prosecutors working with Mueller have been asking questions about Cohen’s work to build the Moscow tower, his personal taxi business and his real estate portfolio, as well as payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Last month the FBI searched Cohen’s residences and office under a warrant obtained by federal prosecutors in New York, acting on a referral by Mueller. The warrant sought records related to Cohen’s personal business dealings and the payments to the women. Trump Tower Moscow was not covered by the warrant, which could indicate that Mueller has decided to keep that aspect of the investigation under his own control.
Sater, who first met Cohen when they were both in high school, worked with President Trump’s real estate company to build hotels in Florida and New York during the mid 2000s. At that time, he also discussed potential projects in Russia with Trump’s company. As part of his deal to build Trump-branded properties, Sater had a Trump Organization business card and an office in the company’s Manhattan headquarters. Sater was convicted on charges related to a stock fraud scheme orchestrated by Russian organized crime figures in 1998. He then became a federal informant who spent years providing crucial information to the government about mobsters and terrorists.
The emails and texts show Cohen and Sater began discussing a potential tower in Moscow in the second half of 2015. Sater said he could introduce Cohen to high-level figures in Russia, including bankers, business people and politicians. In emails that were published by the New York Times, Sater suggested that he could get the backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and that the project could benefit both Trump’s chances of being elected and America’s relations with Moscow.
“I will get Putin on this program, and we will get Donald elected,” Sater wrote in a November 2015 email.
The emails and texts described to Yahoo News, which have not previously been made public, show Sater and Cohen continued discussing the deal into 2016. Sater was explicit that high-level figures in Russia needed to be involved because a project of this magnitude could not be completed without Putin’s approval. Around the start of that year, Cohen became frustrated because Sater had not been able to set up the necessary meetings. Cohen swore at Sater and said he would make his own high-level contacts in Russia.
Michael Cohen leaves the Loews Regency Hotel on May 11, 2018, in New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images) As part of his efforts to pursue the Moscow project on his own, Cohen emailed top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in mid-January 2016 requesting “assistance” for the tower development.
“Without getting into lengthy specifics, the communication between our two sides has stalled,” Cohen wrote.
The email was sent to a generic Kremlin press address, and Cohen has said did not receive a response. In a statement to the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen said he abandoned the Moscow project “for business reasons” in January 2016 when the company couldn’t get necessary government permissions. Cohen further said the decision to give up on the Moscow tower was not related to Trump’s presidential campaign.
But the communications Sater provided to Mueller’s team and three congressional committees paint a different picture of the deal. After Cohen made his own attempts to pursue the plan in January, the messages indicate that he continued to communicate with Sater about the potential project.
The pair continued talking between January and May of 2016, when Sater began pressing Cohen to travel to Russia to work on the deal. Sater encouraged Cohen to go to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in mid-June 2016. Sater presented the event as an opportunity for Cohen to meet top Russian officials, business leaders and bankers in one place. He obtained an invitation for Cohen, who indicated he was considering the trip but ultimately said any travel to Russia would have to take place after the Republican convention, which took place in July 2016.
They did not discuss the project further. In his statement to the House Intelligence Committee, Cohen said that Sater “constantly” encouraged him to go to Russia and that he declined to make the trip.
BUSTED FIXER Michael Cohen Scandal Goes Supernova With Foreign Money Wednesday, news broke about $4 million in ‘suspicious’ money, a widening FBI investigation, and an admission by Trump he repaid his fixer for paying off Stormy Daniels.
Justin Miller JUSTIN MILLER 05.16.18 10:16 PM ET The Michael Cohen scandal began as a six-figure payment to a porn star, but on Wednesday it exploded into an international, multimillion-dollar financial scandal.
President Donald Trump’s fixer took in more than $4 million in eyebrow-raising deposits to his shell company—much of it from foreign sources. That’s what a law-enforcement official told The New Yorker, saying the information Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti and then news outlets have been reporting on over the last week—about the money pouring into the same shell company Cohen used to funnel $130,000 to the adult actress—came from a “suspicious activity report” filed by a bank with the Treasury Department.
The report detailed $1 million in deposits into the company that Cohen told the bank was for real-estate consulting. However, bank officers reported the deposits came from entities with “no apparent connection to real estate or apparent need to engage Cohen as a real estate consultant.”
The official told The New Yorker that two other suspicious activity reports, not previously reported on, showed another $3 million in deposits to Cohen’s company. All three reports were sent by the bank to the Treasury Department’s criminal bureau, but the official said he was motivated to share the first report because the two other ones are not in the database of the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Fearing a government cover-up, the official said he leaked the remaining report.
A “significant portion” of deposits to Cohen’s company were “derived from foreign entities,” bank officers wrote.
Those include a $150,000 payment from a South Korean aerospace firm, which FBI agents are said to be investigating. A translator for Korea Aerospace Industries told The Washington Post that the firm paid Cohen’s company for legal advice about U.S. accounting procedures. Cohen is a former personal injury attorney with “no known experience in government accounting,” the Post notes.
KAI is partnered with U.S.-based defense contractor Lockheed Martin in vying for a $16 million contract to provide jets to the U.S. Air Force.
Cohen also allegedly asked for foreign money from a Qatari investor during a meeting in Trump Tower during the presidential transition period.
Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who was the head of a $100 billion Qatari investment fund, told The Intercept that he asked Cohen what U.S. projects the fund should back in December 2016. But Cohen asked for an up-front fee of $1 million, al-Rumaihi said. (Al-Rumaihi said he did not pay Cohen, and Cohen denied he asked for money.)
Cohen is currently under investigation by the public corruption unit of Manhattan federal prosecutors, which investigates crimes such as bribery, embezzlement, and frauds committed against government agencies. Prosecutors and FBI agents raided Cohen’s home and office last month to seize documents, phones, and more.
Meanwhile, new information came out about Cohen that undercut his former boss’ claims he had nothing to do with Daniels or with Russia during the campaign.
After insisting for months he knew nothing about Cohen’s payoff to Daniels, Trump filed a financial disclosure form Wednesday that said he “fully reimbursed” Cohen in 2017 for expenses incurred in 2016—an apparent reference to the $130,000 Cohen’s company paid Daniels in October of that year to silence her allegation of an affair with Trump a decade earlier.
And it turns out that Cohen was still pursuing a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow after Trump practically clinched the Republican nomination in spring 2016—contrary to Trump’s denial that summer he had any business dealings in Russia.
Cohen had told congressional investigators he stopped pursuing the project in January 2016, but they reportedly obtained text messages between Cohen and his former business associate Felix Sater showing the effort lasted into May 2016.
Sater told Cohen that “high-level figures in Russia needed to be involved because a project of this magnitude could not be completed without Putin’s approval,” according to Yahoo News. “Around the start of that year, Cohen became frustrated because Sater had not been able to set up the necessary meetings. Cohen swore at Sater and said he would make his own high-level contacts in Russia.”
Cohen, who was a lawyer for the Trump Organization, was apparently invited to an economic forum in St. Petersburg but he declined to go, saying any travel to Russia would have to wait until after the GOP convention. Cohen told congressional investigators he never went. https://www.thedailybeast.com/michael-c ... ign-money/
FYI - the impetus for both women coming forward was the bravery of my client, our dedication to exposing the truth through the media, and our competence in dealing with the press. Imagine that.
As disclosed on @Morning_Joe to @morningmika moments ago - two more women and counting... Big problems lie ahead for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump. #Basta
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.” - Maya Angelou
We should all thank @StormyDaniels for her sacrifice and strength. The full extent of her courage will come into focus in the coming weeks.
Trump disclosure of Cohen payment raises new legal questions
NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump revealed in his financial disclosure Wednesday that he reimbursed personal attorney Michael Cohen as much as $250,000 for unspecified “expenses,” with no mention of a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about a sexual tryst she said they had.
The head of the nation’s ethics office questioned why Trump didn’t include this in his previous year’s sworn disclosure and passed along his concerns to federal prosecutors.
“I am providing both reports to you because you may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing,” David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Apol wrote that he considers Trump’s payment to Cohen to be a repayment on a loan and that it was required to be included in Trump’s June 2017 disclosure.
But Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Fox News Channel’s Laura Ingraham that he didn’t think the repayment “had to be disclosed at all because I think it was an expenditure that he reimbursed.”
He also the president was “fully aware” of his decision to reveal the fact that Trump had reimbursed Cohen in a previous Fox News appearance and “endorsed the strategy.”
“We wouldn’t do it without him,” Giuliani said on “The Ingraham Angle.” ″He’s the client, after all, and has tremendous judgment about things like this. And I think it — that the OGE, the Office of Government Ethics, basically agreed with us that it had been fully disclosed.”
“The fact is that the president disclosed everything that he could disclose. He can’t disclose more than he knows. And we’re very comfortable with it,” he added.
But ethics experts say that if that payment was knowingly and willfully left out, Trump could be in violation of federal ethics laws.
“This is a big deal and unprecedented. No president has been previously subject to any referral by (Office of Government Ethics) to DOJ as a result of having failed to report an item on their public financial disclosure report,” said Virginia Canter, a former ethics official in the Clinton and Obama White Houses who is now with the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
How Trump dealt with the Daniels hush money in his disclosure has been closely watched, particularly after Giuliani gave interviews earlier this month saying the president had reimbursed Cohen in a series of payments after the campaign was over. Trump and Giuliani have clashed over what the president knew and when he knew it.
In a footnote in tiny type on Page 45 of his 92-page disclosure, Trump said he reimbursed Cohen for “expenses” ranging from $100,001 to $250,000. The report said the president did not have to disclose the payment but was doing so “in the interest of transparency.”
While the disclosure didn’t specify the purpose of the payment, Cohen has said he paid $130,000 to Daniels in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election to keep her from going public about her allegations that she had sex with the married Trump in 2006.
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, tweeted, “Mr. Trump’s disclosure today conclusively proves that the American people were deceived.”
The tweet continued: “This was NOT an accident and it was not isolated. Cover-ups should always matter.”
The Trump Organization referred questions about the disclosure report to the president’s lawyer Sheri Dillon of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Dillon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Cohen footnote appears in a report giving the first extended look at Trump’s revenue from his properties since he became president. In all, Trump’s vast array of assets — hotels, resorts, books, licensing deals and other business ventures — generated revenue last year of at least $453 million. The report estimated the holdings are worth at least $1.4 billion.
His Washington, D.C., hotel near the Oval Office, a magnet for diplomats and lobbyists, took in $40 million. His Doral golf course and resort in Miami took in $75 million. His Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, received $25 million, and his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, generated $15 million.
Some of the 12-month figures for his properties are down from his previous report, but that earlier report covered about 16 months and so it is not directly comparable.
The figures are before expenses and so give no indication of how much profit the president made off the properties.
Trump has at least $315 million in debt, about the same as he reported a year ago. One of his biggest lenders is Ladder Capital, which has lent more than $100 million. Trump owes Deutsch Bank as much as $175 million.
The debt figures are given in broad ranges in the report and capped at $50 million, so it’s unclear just how much Trump actually owes. The president’s tax returns would give a clear picture, but Trump has broken with tradition by refusing to make them public.
When Trump took office, he refused to fully divest from his global business, another break with presidential tradition. Instead, he put his assets in a trust controlled by his two adult sons and a senior executive. Trump can take back control of the trust at any time, and he’s allowed to withdraw cash from it as he pleases.
His report shows that Trump received $64,840 from the Screen Actors Guild pension fund. Trump has appeared in several movies, including “Home Alone 2” and “Zoolander.”
For operating New York’s Wollman Rink in Central Park, the president took in $9.3 million.
Though it was published three decades ago, Trump’s “The Art of The Deal” last year generated as much as $1 million.
Qatar just admitted Trump’s lawyer tried to solicit a million dollar bribe right after the election BY GRANT STERN PUBLISHED ON MAY 16, 2018
The Qatari foreign lobbying scandal that began with a random allegation against President Trump’s failed national security advisor which we broke last week has just spread like wildfire to embattled Trump Family fixer Michael Cohen.
Former Qatari diplomat and Qatar Investments director Ahmed Al-Rumaihi just admitted to The Intercept that President Trump’s personal lawyer Cohen spent a week soliciting a $1 million bribe from him, which resulted in a Trump Tower meeting, arranged by General Flynn on December 12th, 2016. Ryan Grim wrote:
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When Al-Rumaihi asked Cohen more generally about important projects that the investment fund should back, Cohen said there were plenty of options. But Cohen said he would need $1 million first, as part of his fee, al-Rumaihi told The Intercept. The Qatari told Cohen, “ok” at the time, but told Grim that they have a policy of not paying middlemen, although Trump’s lawyer may have been operating under a different assumption. Of course, Qatar pays political middlemen all of the time and their recently increased lobbying efforts are no secret.
Qatar spends big bucks on infrastructure projects, like this Russian airport they bought only months before their meeting with Cohen. It was no secret that the Trump transition team was hunting for splashy deals and headlines they could get written about them, no matter how little substance existed.
The Qataris now say that they only delivered a false promise after the Trump Tower meeting, in the form of an announcement from the head of the QIA that was leaked “on the background” to Reuters and other outlets.
That’s when Al-Rumaihi says that Cohen proposed to make the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar his partner by delivering “know-how” in exchange for the profits.
As the conversation turned to the infrastructure fund, Cohen suggested that Qatar could revitalize some Midwestern towns, saying, according to al-Rumaihi, “‘For example, we can find a steel factory that is about to shut down. You guys can invest. I’ll give you some names to appoint as partners. You guys put in the money, we will put in the know-how, and share the profits 50-50. We can perhaps get a federal government ‘off-take agreement’ for 10 to 15 years. It will revitalize the city, great PR, you guys will look like you’re saving the city, everybody wins.’”
Al-Rumaihi surmised that the biggest winners would be the silent “partners,” who would put in “know-how,” rather than money and walk away with half the profits. However, Ahmed Al-Rumaihi’s disclosures to The Intercept do not answer all or really any of the bigger questions about a meeting at Trump Tower just four days after that country’s Rosneft oil deal began closing.
It’s no surprise that President Trump’s personal lawyer was soliciting a bribe from the energy-rich nation of Qatar.
Michael Cohen took in cash from a select list of unsuspecting corporations with the same kind of slick sales pitch that he could turn his presidential access into business results as diverse as telecom, big pharma, and aerospace.
The Qatari Foreign Minister was really the big fish in the room for this meeting, and while the President’s lawyer might’ve been soliciting a million dollar bribe, there would be no reason for a member of the royal family to visit Trump Tower to discuss paying him off.
So we still don’t know the complete events or results of the meeting at Trump Tower which lasted nearly eighty minutes, but Trump’s disgraced former National Security Advisor does; he’s been cooperating with Speical Counsel Mueller for six months.
NYT: Papadopoulos, Page Met With ‘Govt Informant’ Ahead Of Election By Allegra Kirkland | May 16, 2018 4:16 pm
“At least one” U.S. government informant met with Trump campaign officials in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reported Wednesday.
That person met “several times” with campaign national security advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, according to the report, which offered no additional information on the informant’s identity or connection with U.S. authorities.
The meetings had not previously been reported authoritatively by a major outlet. They were apparently part of the FBI’s frenzied, secretive effort to determine whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russian government while taking pains not to influence the election results.
Conservative media figures from Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel to radio host Rush Limbaugh have spent the last few days raising alarms about what they claim was an FBI informant dispatched to “spy” on the Trump campaign. Their concerns stem from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) weeks-long effort to pursue information about an intelligence source who aided the federal Russia investigation.
Nunes ultimately subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents about that individual. Though the DOJ did not turn them over, citing concerns about the person’s safety, Nunes and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) appeared to back down after sitting for a classified briefing with top intel officials last week.
It’s not confirmed that Nunes’ efforts are related to the informant mentioned in the Times article.
Page did not immediately respond to a text from TPM seeking comment.
What’s True In Trump-Russia Dossier? Key Parts Proven Over Last Year
By Greg Price On 5/17/18 at 8:10 AM Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed one year ago today to probe Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The anniversary is not a jubilant celebration for President Donald Trump, who has labeled the investigation a “witch hunt.”
But well before Mueller took the national spotlight, a former British intelligence officer was gathering information about Trump and his campaign’s potential ties and collusion with Russia to win the White House.
Christopher Steele and his 35-page dossier alleged not only collusion between the president’s campaign and Russia, but that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime had cultivated Trump for “years,” and even had potentially damaging information on the billionaire real estate mogul.
Mueller’s probe, which he technically took over from the FBI, was not prompted by Steele's dossier. Instead, the investigation began when former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos drunkenly told an Australian diplomat that he knew Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Australian officials then alerted U.S. officials and the FBI opened its probe in July 2016.
Recommended Slideshows Top 50 Countries in the World In Pictures: The 50 Most Powerful Military Forces in the World 25 Weird Royal Rules Meghan Markle Must Now Follow Ever since, media reports, U.S. intelligence services and Mueller’s team itself have proven key parts of Steele’s dossier.
Here’s what we know to be true in the dossier that’s plagued Trump since his before his presidency even began.
Dossier Claim: Russia Meddled
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Revelation: Indeed, the U.S. intelligence apparatus came to its conclusion that Russia interfered in 2016’s election in a report released in January 2017. Though Steele’s name is not mentioned in that report, it does back up his reporting that Russia was actively interfering in the election process.
Dossier Claim: Russia Had Dirt on Clinton and DNC
Revelation: Much of the dossier is devoted not only to Trump but Russia’s, specifically Putin’s, distaste for former secretary of state Clinton. “Putin motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary Clinton,” one line of the dossier reads. Another line went: “The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, whom President Putin apparently both hated and feared.”
Steele later cites one source as stating Russia was behind the leak of Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks.
The U.S. intelligence community confirmed not only that Russia had tried to meddle in the election, but that it was indeed the source of the hacked DNC emails released by WikiLeaks.
Dossier Claim: Putin Was in Charge
Revelation: On the very first page of the dossier, Steele explains that the conspiracy was “endorsed by Putin” and that the effort was “both supported and directed” by him. The U.S. intelligence report reached the same conclusion, writing Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the presidential election.” According to Steele’s sources, Putin and Russia had been cultivating Trump for “at least 5 years.”
GettyImages-941895108 Former Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse following a hearing on April 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Manafort and his legal team attempted to convince a federal judge on Wednesday to throw out criminal charges filed against him by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating potential collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia. Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla
Dossier Claim: Mr. Cohen Goes to Prague
Revelation: The president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was accused in the dossier of meeting with “Kremlin representatives” in Prague in August 2016. Cohen has repeatedly denied traveling to the Czech capital, but McClatchy last month reported Mueller had evidence the trip happened.
The report stated Mueller’s team discovered proof Cohen got to Prague through Germany. The two countries are part of a number of European nations with an open borders agreement that allows undocumented travel. However, no other media outlet has been able to confirm McClatchy’s reporting.
Dossier Claim: Russian Diplomat Was A Spy
Revelation: Steele also claimed that Russia was worried a diplomat named Mikhail Kalugin was heavily involved in the meddling operation. Afraid he would be exposed, Russia pulled Kalugin out of Washington on “short notice.” Steele actually misspelled Kalugin’s name, but the U.S. government had identified Kalugin as a Russian spy, BBC reported in March.
Dossier Claim: Carter Page met with Russians
Revelation: Page previously denied having met Russian government officials during his trip to Russia in July 2016, but admitted to the meeting while speaking to the House Intelligence Committee in November. Page was a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign and in June 2016 delivered a speech in Washington praising Putin. And as early as September 2016 U.S. officials were looking into Page’s contacts in Russia, Yahoo News reported.
Dossier Claim: Manafort Received Payment For Work In Ukraine
Revelation: Manafort, who is facing serious charges from Mueller’s team, worked extensively in Ukraine for years before Trump hired him as campaign chairman in 2016. The longtime Washington lobbyist received $12.7 million from the political party of former pro-Russia Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych between 2007 and 2012, The New York Times reported on August 14, 2016. Manafort resigned from the campaign after that report.
Steele’s dossier states that Yanukovych and Putin met the day after the story broke, and the former made assurances to the latter that no trail could be found.
“This had been held in secret on 15 August near Volgograd, Russia and the western media revelations about Manafort and Ukraine had featured prominently on the agenda,” the dossier reads about the meeting. “Yanukovych had confided in Putin that he did authorize and order substantial kick-back payments to Manafort as alleged but sought to reassure him that there was no document trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.”
In April 2017, financial records unearthed by the Associated Press confirmed at least $1.2 million went to Manafort’s company from Ukraine.
These are some interesting notes that Manafort took at the Trump- Russia meet! Remember when this ‘silly little nothing’ meet according to Don Jr was about ‘adoptions’?
These notes definitely look more like discussions re the Magnitsky Act and rewards for lifting them.
Why is Mr. Cohen's attorney Mr. Ryan representing Mr. Cohen at the same time he is working for Qatar? Especially in light of the Qatar bribery allegations revealed earlier this week? Are they paying MC's legal bills? No wonder he is trying to keep me out of the case! #Conflict
Qatar adds McDermott Will & Emery
THEODORIC MEYER07/31/2017 02:17 PM EDT
With David Beavers, Aubree Eliza Weaver, Zachary Warmbrodt and Daniel Lippman
QATAR ADDS McDERMOTT WILL & EMERY: Qatar is continuing its hiring spree in Washington, signing McDermott Will & Emery as the country tussles for advantage in its diplomatic standoff with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies. Former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Steve Ryan, a partner at the firm, will head up the lobbying push. Those efforts will “include correspondence and meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs, and Executive Branch officials from the Departments of State and Defense,” according to a Justice Department filing. The Qataris are paying the firm a $40,000-a-month retainer.
— Qatar has added six Washington lobbying firms in the past two months as its struggles to persuade Washington policymakers to take its side in the standoff — and that’s not including subcontractors hired by those firm. The Qataris signed Avenue Strategies Global, a lobbying firm co-founded by President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and another former Trump campaign hand, Barry Bennett, last week on a $150,000-a-month retainer. And Playbook reported this morning that “Qatar will pay Nelson Mullins $100,000 per month for three months as the country ramps up its K Street presence, according to a draft FARA filing obtained by Playbook. Qatar is facing a blockade from Gulf states and Saudi Arabia. Robert Crowe, Vinoda Basnayake and Christopher Cushing will be representing Qatar.” Qatar has also signed Information Management Services, LEVICK and former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s firm and is now spending at least $1.7 million per month on lobbying.
SPG STAFFER PENS OP-ED ON TRUMP TOWER MEETING: Daniel Hoffman, the vice president of intelligence and security at SPG, a lobbying firm that has expanded aggressively in Washington since Trump’s election, had an op-ed in The New York Times in Saturday’s print edition giving his take on the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and a trio of “Kremlin-connected Russians,” as he puts it. While there’s no proof yet that the Kremlin planned the meeting, “to me, the clearest evidence that this was a Russian influence operation is the trail of bread crumbs the Kremlin seemed to have deliberately left leading from Trump Tower to the Kremlin,” Hoffman writes. “This operation was meant to be discovered.”
— SPG, also known as Sonoran Policy Group, has positioned itself since the election as a firm that can help foreign governments (among other clients) navigate Trump’s Washington. (The firm helped New Zealand, for instance, throw an inaugural party that drew a number of Trump White House staffers.) The op-ed doesn’t disclose Hoffman’s role at the firm, though, describing him only as “a former chief of station for the C.I.A., worked for over 30 years for the United States government in Russia, Europe, the Middle East and South Asia.” https://www.politico.com/tipsheets/poli ... ery-221619
Michael Cohen's Lawyers Want Stormy Daniels' Lawyer Kept Out Of Court
Cohen's lawyers argue that Michael Avenatti "appears to have repeatedly violated" the New York Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers. "Baseless and inaccurate," Avenatti told BuzzFeed News.
Chris GeidnerMay 18, 2018, at 5:12 p.m. Michael Cohen Brendan McDermid / Reuters Lawyers for Michael Cohen say that Michael Avenatti should not be allowed to appear in court to represent Stormy Daniels in the dispute over the April 9 raids on Cohen's properties.
In a court filing Friday night, Cohen's lawyers — Stephen Ryan, Todd Harrison, Joseph Evans of McDermott Will & Emery — argue that Avenatti "appears to have repeatedly violated" the New York Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers.
Michael Avenatti Lucas Jackson / Reuters "Baseless and inaccurate," Avenatti told BuzzFeed News. He also filed a supplemental affidavit responding to the Cohen filing.
Avenatti is seeking pro hac vice admission — which means he wants to appear in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York for the sole purpose of representing Daniels in Cohen's challenge to how the evidence seized in the searches will be handled. Avenatti has expressed concern that documents relating to Daniels are among those seized in the raid.
Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, is the subject of a criminal investigation that led to the raid. Daniels, an adult film star whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has a pending lawsuit in California, filed by Avenatti, seeking to toss out a 2016 hush agreement negotiated by Cohen related to her alleged relationship with Trump.
Although Cohen's lawyers acknowledge that the request Avenatti is making is generally granted, they argue his is an "exceptional case" that warrants a denial.
Their claims, in large part, are based on Avenatti's recent decision to release a report about Cohen's financial dealings — the vast majority of which have been acknowledged by the companies with whom he was doing business.
"Mr. Avenatti published inaccurate statements regarding Mr. Cohen," the lawyers wrote. "Second, Mr. Avenatti also published, at the same time, factually accurate information regarding Mr. Cohen’s banking transactions that had no lawful source, and we requested that the Court inquire as to how he obtained the information. Third, Mr. Avenatti made further inaccurate statements to the public, all with the purpose of prejudicing Mr. Cohen in the proceedings in which Mr. Avenatti now seeks admission."
The lawyers argue that these actions violate professional conduct rules against prejudicing proceedings through statements made outside of court and against making false statements.
Cohen's lawyers previously had sought to keep Avenatti from appearing in the court, leading US District Judge Kimba Wood to ask Avenatti to formally seek pro hac vice admission. Avenatti did so, and then Wood asked Cohen to file any opposition by Friday afternoon.
In Friday's filing, Cohen's lawyers write in part, "Since the submission of our letter on May 9, seemingly authoritative press accounts have also detailed that a federal law enforcement official apparently intentionally disclosed to Mr. Avenatti directly or indirectly certain suspicious activity reports (SARs) reports regarding Mr. Cohen," later citing the New Yorker's report on a person who said he released documents relating to Cohen.
"Mr. Cohen has presented no evidence that I received any information from the whistleblower identified in the New Yorker article referenced by Mr. Cohen," Avenatti stated in response to that point, noting that, additionally, "news articles do not constitute admissible evidence." He also stated in response, "Mr. Cohen has presented no evidence that I ever had access to any suspicious activity reports relating to Mr. Cohen."
Michael Cohen Helped Trump Donor Seek Investment From Qatar Fund
Trump lawyer was a consultant in pitch seeking funds for nuclear power plant
Michael Rothfeld and Updated May 21, 2018 6:55 p.m. ET
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer helped a major donor to Mr. Trump’s inauguration pitch a nuclear-power investment to the Qatari sovereign-wealth fund at a meeting in April, according to people familiar with the matter.
The donor, Franklin L. Haney, is seeking to complete a pair of unfinished nuclear reactors in Alabama known as the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant. His company is lobbying the Trump administration for an extension of tax credits, federal disclosures show.
Mr. Haney, 77, recently hired Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, as a consultant, one of the people familiar with the matter said. It isn't clear how much Mr. Haney paid Mr. Cohen. On April 5, Messrs. Cohen and Haney met with the vice chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohamed al-Thani, to seek an investment in the plant, the people familiar with the matter said.
The meeting took place at the Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club near Miami Beach, where a Qatari delegation, which was in town for a roadshow aimed at pairing U.S. investors with Qatari business executives, spent several days. There is no indication whether the Qataris have decided to invest with Mr. Haney. Mr. Cohen also pitched Sheikh al-Thani on a separate infrastructure project that didn’t involve Mr. Haney, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Details of that project and how large of an investment Messrs. Haney and Cohen were said to be soliciting are unclear.
The Atomic Energy Act prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from issuing licenses to nuclear operators that are “owned, controlled or dominated” by a foreign corporation or government.
Mr. Cohen didn’t respond to a request for comment. Mr. Haney couldn’t be reached for comment and requests for comment made to his company and family members weren’t returned.
Qatar’s spokesman in Washington said Mr. Cohen requested and was granted a meeting with Mr. Al-Thani on April 5, but didn’t elaborate further. A spokesman for the Qatar sovereign-wealth fund declined to comment.
Mr. Cohen is under federal criminal investigation in New York for possible campaign-finance violations and bank fraud, according to court filings and people familiar with the matter. Investigators are examining, among other things, a $130,000 payment he made to former adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, professionally known as Stormy Daniels, before the 2016 election in exchange for her silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump a decade earlier. Mr. Cohen has denied wrongdoing. Mr. Trump has denied the affair but one of his attorneys confirmed the president repaid Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen attended a reception with some members of the Qatari delegation on April 5 and spent that night on Mr. Haney’s yacht before leaving the area the following morning, one of the people familiar with the matter said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his apartment, hotel room and office a few days later, on April 9.
The April meetings weren’t Mr. Cohen’s first time seeking money from the Qatari government. More than a year earlier, in December 2016, Mr. Cohen solicited $1 million from Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who at that time was head of the Qatar Investment Authority’s investment division, Mr. al-Rumaihi said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Cohen solicited the funds in a meeting at the Peninsula Hotel in New York days before a Qatari delegation met with Trump transition officials at Trump Tower, Mr. al-Rumaihi said. He said Mr. Cohen asked him for $1 million for his consulting services as the two were discussing a possible investment by Qatar in a U.S. infrastructure project.
Mr. al-Rumaihi left the Qatar Investment Authority in March 2017. The spokesman for Qatar said the state “has never been a client of Mr. Cohen.”
Mr. Haney in December 2016 donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural fund through an LLC called HFNWA, Federal Election Commission records show. He had previously backed Democrats, including former President Barack Obama, giving $33,400 to the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and $1 million to the pro-Democratic Senate Majority PAC in 2014, according to the FEC records.
In the 18 months since Mr. Trump was elected president, Mr. Cohen sought to pitch his consulting services and his insight into the new administration to a wide swath of corporations. Some, including AT&T Inc. and Novartis AG , hired him for sizable fees early last year; others, including Uber Technologies Inc. and Ford Motor Co. , said they turned down his pitches.
Last year, Mr. Cohen grew eager for more lucrative contracts and sought to enter the foreign consulting world. He discussed with associates how to pitch foreign governments, including Qatar and Singapore, on multiple occasions last year, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Mr. Haney, who worked his way through the University of Tennessee as a Bible salesman and ran for governor of Tennessee as a Democrat in his 20s, built a successful real-estate development business, often through the use of tax-exempt financing.
An entity created by Mr. Haney, Nuclear Development LLC, entered into a contract in November 2016 to purchase the partially completed Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from the Tennessee Valley Authority for $111 million. Mr. Haney said at the time that his entity would invest up to $13 billion to finish constructing the plant. Mr. Haney’s company won the right to buy the two unfinished nuclear sites at an auction. He has until November of this year to finalize the sale of the property, a spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority said.
Mr. Haney’s company, Franklin L. Haney Co., has spent more than $500,000 since the beginning of 2017 lobbying the administration and Congress to extend nuclear production tax credits past their scheduled expiration in 2021, according to federal lobbying records.
Foreign Agent Registration Act filings disclosed last week another link between Mr. Cohen and Qatar: Steve Ryan, an attorney who has been representing Mr. Cohen since mid-June of 2017.
In a June 30 letter to the Qatari ambassador, Mr. Ryan and a colleague at his law firm, McDermott Will & Emery, wrote that they would be “principally responsible” for lobbying on behalf of the Gulf state, including “establishing and conducting liaison with executive branch officials and members of Congress.” Qatar agreed to pay the firm $40,000 a month starting on July 1.
About two months later, on Aug. 31, Mr. Ryan terminated his registration on behalf of Qatar, according to a FARA filing. When asked for comment for this article, Mr. Ryan referred to the termination of his FARA registration as evidence that he had ended the engagement. A law-firm representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Cohen wasn’t the only Trump associate to meet with the Qataris on their Florida visit. At a second reception held on April 7 in honor of the Qatari emir, Rudy Giuliani —a lawyer whose consulting firm has worked for Qatar—mingled with other business executives and investors in attendance, according to people familiar with the event.
Michael Cohen payments put spotlight on NY investment firm linked to Russian oligarch. “It was obvious when you entered Columbus Nova, you were entering Viktor Vekselberg’s NY office. Conversations there were primarily about placing his money.” #Maddow https://wapo.st/2kfnZvT?tid=ss_tw&utm_t ... 55d6aa290b …
Last edited by seemslikeadream on Mon May 21, 2018 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Michael Cohen met with Qatari official and nuclear plant owner last month, by @dfriedman33
Michael Cohen Met With Qatari Official and Nuclear Plant Owner Last Month
Here’s another action that might be of interest to federal investigators.
Dan FriedmanMay. 21, 2018 3:51 PM
Michael Cohen leaves court in Manhattan on Monday April 16, 2018.Go Nakamura/ZUMA Wire
At a meeting in Miami on April 5, Franklin Haney, the owner of an inoperative nuclear power plant in Hollywood, Alabama, sought a major investment for his facility, according to two sources familiar with the gathering. His target, the sources say, was Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce and deputy chairman of the Qatar Investment Authority, the $300 billion sovereign wealth fund of the natural gas-rich Persian Gulf state. Also at the meeting, according to the sources, was Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer. (Several days later, Cohen’s office and home would be raided by federal agents.) Now, as the Trump scandal expands to include Cohen’s business deals and possible interactions between Trump associates and officials of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, any relationship between Cohen and Qatar would likely be of interest to federal investigators.
“Michael doesn’t do anything without getting paid.” Last week, Foreign Policy reported that Cohen met with Al Thani in Florida that same week on the sidelines of the Qatar-US Economic Forum but noted that its sources would not say what was discussed at the meeting between Cohen and Al Thani. A Qatari embassy spokesman told Foreign Policy that Cohen requested the meeting with Al Thani but would not say if it took place. “The State of Qatar has never been a client of Mr. Cohen,” the spokesman said.
The two sources familiar with the discussions between Cohen and Al Thani tell Mother Jones that the two men met with Haney to discuss possible Qatari investment in his nuclear power plant. Marinetraffic.com, a website that tracks the location of large ships, shows that Haney’s $50 million, 167-foot yacht, the Emelina, was docked in Miami’s Miamarina from April 2 through April 7. (Haney’s yacht is usually based in Washington, DC.)
If a deal were struck, Cohen could have expected to receive a finder’s fee, according to the sources. “Michael doesn’t do anything without getting paid,” said one of the sources, who knows Cohen. It’s unclear whether any agreement was reached.
Cohen’s presence at the meeting would raise questions about his relationship with Qatar, a US ally that has been involved in a bitter diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a conflict that has played out among officials and lobbyists within Washington. Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, who formerly served as the head of the investments division at the Qatari sovereign fund (known as the QIA) and as a Qatari diplomat, recently told the Washington Post and the Intercept that in December 2016 Cohen demanded a fee of $1 million in exchange for connecting Al-Rumaihi with potential partners on US infrastructure projects. Al-Rumaihi, who left the QIA in March 2017, said he rejected Cohen’s request. Cohen told the Intercept it was “untrue” that he had sought payment from Al-Rumaihi. But Cohen, according to the sources who spoke with Mother Jones, still managed to make a connection with the QIA.
Haney, 77, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, native who made a fortune largely through leasing office space to federal agencies, bought the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from the federal Tennessee Valley Authority for $111 million in 2016. Work on the plant started in 1975 but was halted in 1988 and never completed. Haney still needs to line up financing—an estimated $13 billion—to complete work on two nuclear reactors at the plant. Haney also needs Trump administration help. He is seeking an extension of an Energy Department loan guarantee, nuclear power tax credits, and various Nuclear Regulatory Commission approvals. And if the plant is eventually completed, Haney will need business from the TVA, the only viable customer for the plant’s electricity.
Haney has aggressively courted the Trump administration. After giving heavily to Democrats for years, he donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee through one of his companies. He has also contributed at least $125,000 to the Republican National Committee this year, according to Federal Election Commission records. Bloomberg reported last year that Haney had bragged to associates that he has dined with Trump at least a dozen times since the election. Haney is also a member of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida club, according to the report.
Cohen’s attorney and Haney did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for the Qatari Investment Authority declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen, and that investigation appears partly focused on Cohen’s efforts after Trump’s election to pitch his relationship with the president to individuals and companies seeking assistance from the new administration. Earlier this month, Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who says she had an affair with Trump, revealed a series of payments to Cohen, which were detailed in suspicious financial activity reports compiled by a bank Cohen used. AT&T; Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis; and Columbus Nova, the US investment manager for Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department, have all confirmed making payments to a Cohen firm called Essential Consultants. After news of these payments broke, several companies claimed that Cohen failed to deliver the assistance they sought.
Cohen’s meeting with Al Thani suggests he was seeking to capitalize on his connection to Trump as recently as last month. The Miami meeting came the week before an April 10 Oval Office meeting between Trump and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In 2017, Trump supported a blockade imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and others, and he accused Qatar of funding terrorist groups. During this White House meeting, in a sharp reversal, Trump praised the emir for cracking down on terror funding. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... ast-month/
Michael Cohen discussed a nuclear plant in Alabama here's thread on Michael Flynn discussions with ACU Strategic Partner about US/Russian partnership to build a nuclear plants in the Middle East and to invest in Bellefonte nuclear plant in AlabamaWendy Siegelman added, Wendy Siegelman
This Oct 2016 article describes ACU Strategic Partner proposal for US/Russian partnership to build a nuclear plants in the Middle East, and to also invest in a Bellefonte nuclear plant in... Alabama! http://s.al.com/sMjJ0LW
Foreign Policy story published last week on Michael Cohen meeting with Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Days Before FBI Raid, by
Trump Lawyer Met With Qatari Government Official Days Before FBI Raid
Was Michael Cohen seeking to add foreign governments as clients of his consulting business?
Elias GrollMay 18, 2018, 2:46 PM Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, chats with friends near the Loews Regency hotel on Park Ave on April 13, 2018 in New York City. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, chats with friends near the Loews Regency hotel on Park Ave on April 13, 2018 in New York City. Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images
President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, who made millions over the past 18 months soliciting funds from clients seeking entree and influence at the White House, met with a senior Qatari official in Florida last month, just days before the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The sources would not say what was discussed at the meeting with Qatar’s minister of economy and commerce, Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani. But the Washington Post reported this week that Cohen had offered his services to a different Qatari official at a meeting in December 2016, promising access to the White House in exchange for $1 million.
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The Qatari turned down the offer at the time, according to the report.
The meeting last month took place on the sidelines of the glitzy Qatar-U.S. Economic Forum in Miami. The gathering brought together U.S. investors and Qatari businessmen for talks on joint projects and promoted investment opportunities tied to the 2022 World Cup.
It also attracted lobbyists looking to sign up Qatar as a client.
A Qatari Embassy spokesman said Cohen requested the meeting with Al Thani but would not say if it took place. “The State of Qatar has never been a client of Mr. Cohen,” the spokesman said.
Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the meeting.
After Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016, Cohen pitched himself as a consultant to companies looking for insight into the operations of the White House. He landed several big-name clients, including telecom giant AT&T, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, and an investment firm linked to a Russian billionaire recently sanctioned by the U.S. government.
The FBI is investigating Cohen for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
His trip to Miami is likely to raise questions about whether he was seeking to expand his consulting business to foreign governments.
Cohen’s pitch to multinational companies touted his access to Trump and his unique understanding of the administration’s key players. Advocacy groups have questioned whether this consulting work fell afoul of American lobbying laws, including whether Cohen should have registered as a foreign agent.
Qatar has in recent months hired teams of lobbyists and public relations consultants in the United States to win White House support for the lifting of a blockade on the resource-rich emirate imposed by its adversaries in the region, including Saudi Arabia.
“They’ve done an awful lot to bring people into a favorable view of them,” says Gerald Feierstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and the director for Gulf affairs and government relations at the Middle East Institute, a Washington think tank.
Qatari state-backed investors have pledged to inject $45 billion into the U.S. economy, including in possible infrastructure projects prized by the Trump administration. Investors linked to Qatar have also eyed investments in Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s family real estate company. The New York Times reported on Thursday that a Canadian real estate company backed by the Qatar Investment Authority is close to a deal that would bail out a financially troubled, Kushner-owned office tower on Fifth Avenue in New York.
During the presidential transition, Cohen discussed infrastructure projects with Ahmed al-Rumaihi, the Qatari executive from whom he solicited a $1 million payment. According to the Intercept, Cohen told al-Rumaihi that he would require the fee before offering his advice on infrastructure projects in which the Qataris should invest.
The Miami forum kicked off a four-city tour that brought Qatari officials and businessmen to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. The tour coincided with a high-level visit of Qatari officials to Washington that included an Oval Office meeting between Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Trump.
At the meeting, Trump praised his counterpart as a partner in combating terrorist financing. The comment seemed to conflict with Trump’s previous description of Qatar as a “funder of terrorism at a very high level.”
According to a person who attended the Miami forum, Cohen sat in on at least one roundtable discussion. The forum included a large Qatari government delegation and private businessmen from the Gulf state interested in investing in U.S. real estate, the hospitality industry, and sports franchises. http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/18/tru ... -fbi-raid/
Today @dfriedman33 reveals Franklin Haney, owner of an inoperative nuclear power plant in Hollywood, Alabama, sought investment in his facility from Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, Qatar Investment Authority/QIA deputy chairman, at Apr 5 mtg
Haney bought the unfinished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant from the federal Tennessee Valley Authority for $111 million in 2016 - Bellefonte is the same plant Michael Flynn's business partner Alex Copson at ACU Strategic Partners bid for unsuccessfully in 2016 https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... ast-month/ …
In 2016 when Copson (who Michael Flynn allegedly texted during the inauguration) and ACU were bidding for the Bellefonte plant, Copson aimed to seek the help of Alabama Senators - Jeff Sessions was AL senator at that time
The person Flynn allegedly contacted at the inauguration, Alex Copson, pitched a US/Russia nuclear deal in which the "Alabama senators can help the next (presidential) administration move this project…
Sources wouldn't say what was discussed at Michael Cohen & Qatari official Al Thani's Apr 2018 meeting in Miami but @dfriedman33 reports that they met w/Haney re a Qatari investment for his nuclear plant in Alabama. Recall, Flynn's nuclear scheme. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/20 ... ast-month/ …
Alex Copson [Flynn's Russian-Saudi nuclear deal partner whom he allegedly texted during the inauguration] pitched a US/Russia nuclear deal in in 2016 in which "Alabama senators [Sessions] can help the next administration move this project forward."
There's already an Alabama grand jury investigation into Bellafonte nuclear plant owned by Michael Cohen "client" Frank Haney, who donated $1M to Trump’s inaugural, seemingly to grease the wheels of regulatory agencies.
NEW: Michael Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko & Trump.
Shortly after the visit last June, Ukraine's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Paul Manafort.
Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks
By Paul Wood BBC News, Kiev Poroshenko shakes hands with TrumpGetty Images Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko (left) meets US President Donald Trump at the White House in June 2017 Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received a secret payment of at least $400,000 (£300,000) to fix talks between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, according to sources in Kiev close to those involved.
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Mr Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by US law.
Mr Cohen denies the allegation.
The meeting at the White House was last June. Shortly after the Ukrainian president returned home, his country's anti-corruption agency stopped its investigation into Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Mr Poroshenko's administration described what happened before the visit to the White House.
Mr Cohen was brought in, he said, because Ukraine's registered lobbyists and embassy in Washington DC could get Mr Poroshenko little more than a brief photo-op with Mr Trump. Mr Poroshenko needed something that could be portrayed as "talks".
This senior official's account is as follows - Mr Poroshenko decided to establish a back channel to Mr Trump. The task was given to a former aide, who asked a loyal Ukrainian MP for help.
He in turn used personal contacts in a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. This eventually led to Michael Cohen, the president's lawyer and trusted fixer. Mr Cohen was paid $400,000.
There is no suggestion that Mr Trump knew about the payment.
Michael Cohen leaves US courthouse in New YorkGetty Images Michael Cohen (centre) is under criminal investigation in the US A second source in Kiev gave the same details, except that the total paid to Mr Cohen was $600,000.
There was also support for the account from a lawyer in the US who has uncovered details of Mr Cohen's finances, Michael Avenatti. He represents a porn actress, Stormy Daniels, in legal action against President Trump.
Avenatti said that Suspicious Activity Reports filed by Mr Cohen's bank to the US Treasury showed he had received money from "Ukrainian interests".
As well as Mr Cohen, the two Ukrainians said to have opened the backchannel for their president also denied the story.
The senior intelligence official in Kiev said Mr Cohen had been helped by Felix Sater, a convicted former mobster who was once Trump's business partner. Mr Sater's lawyer, too, denied the allegations.
The Ukrainian president's office initially refused to comment but, asked by a local journalist to respond, a statement was issued calling the story a "blatant lie, slander and fake".
As was widely reported last June, Mr Poroshenko was still guessing at how much time he would have with Mr Trump even as he flew to Washington.
The White House schedule said only that Mr Poroshenko would "drop in" to the Oval Office while Mr Trump was having staff meetings.
That had been agreed through official channels. Mr Cohen's fee was for getting Mr Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit.
The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Mr Cohen had taken "hundreds of thousands" of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.
Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation.
"Poroshenko's inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was."
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What does Kim Jong-un really want? Why Trump might be losing the China trade war 'I wish Mum's phone was never invented' Mr Poroshenko was desperate to meet Mr Trump because of what had happened in the US presidential election campaign.
In August 2016, the New York Times published a document that appeared to show Mr Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, getting millions of dollars from pro-Russian interests in Ukraine.
It was a page of the so-called "black ledger" belonging to the Party of the Regions, the pro-Russian party that employed Mr Manafort when he ran a political consultancy in Ukraine.
The page appeared to have come from Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau, which was investigating him. Mr Manafort had to resign.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul ManafortReuters Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort maintains his innocence Several sources in Ukraine said Mr Poroshenko authorised the leak, believing that Hillary Clinton was certain to win the presidency.
If so, this was a disastrous mistake - Ukraine had backed the losing candidate in the US election. Regardless of how the leak came about, it hurt Mr Trump, the eventual winner.
Ukraine was (and remains) at war with Russia and Russian-backed separatists and could not afford to make an enemy of the new US president.
So Mr Poroshenko appeared relieved as he beamed and paid tribute to Mr Trump in the Oval Office.
He boasted that he had seen the new president before Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin. He called it a "substantial visit". He held a triumphant news conference in front of the north portico of the White House.
A week after Mr Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, Ukraine's National Anti Corruption Bureau announced that it was no longer investigating Mr Manafort.
At the time, an official there explained to me that Mr Manafort had not signed the "black ledger" acknowledging receipt of the money. And anyway, he went on, Mr Manafort was American and the law allowed the bureau only to investigate Ukrainians.
US charges facing Paul Manafort
conspiracy against the US, conspiracy to launder money and failure to disclose foreign assets - all related to his work in Ukraine and filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He pleaded not guilty tax and bank fraud charges later filed by Mueller in US state of Virginia, also denied by Manafort Read more about Manafort: The man who helped Trump win
Ukraine did not terminate the Manafort inquiry altogether. The file was handed from the Anti Corruption Bureau to the state prosecutor's office. It languished there.
Last week in Kiev, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Serhiy Horbatyuk, told me: "There was never a direct order to stop the Manafort inquiry but from the way our investigation has progressed, it's clear that our superiors are trying to create obstacles."
Anti-Russian protests in KievGetty Images Anti-Russian protests in Kiev this year None of our sources say that Mr Trump used the Oval Office meeting to ask Mr Poroshenko to kill the Manafort investigation. But if there was a back channel, did Michael Cohen use it to tell the Ukrainians what was expected of them?
Perhaps he didn't need to.
One source in Kiev said Mr Poroshenko had given Trump "a gift" - making sure that Ukraine would find no more evidence to give the US inquiry into whether the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia.
Mr Poroshenko knew that to do otherwise, another source said, "would be like spitting in Trump's face".
More on Michael Cohen
Was Trump's Stormy Daniels payment legal? Who is Michael Cohen? The big question at heart of Stormy Daniels saga Why the raid on Trump's lawyer is a big deal A report by a member of a Western country's intelligence community says Mr Poroshenko's team believe they have established a "non-aggression pact" with Mr Trump.
Drawing on "senior, well placed" intelligence sources in Kiev, the report sets out this sequence of events…
As soon as Trump was elected, the report says, Ukraine stopped "proactively" investigating Manafort.
Liaison with the US government was moved away from the National Anti Corruption Bureau to a senior aide in the presidential administration.
The report states that Poroshenko returned from Washington and, in August or September, 2017, decided to completely end cooperation with the US agencies investigating Manafort. He did not give an order to implement this decision until November 2017.
The order became known to the US government after scheduled visits by Poroshenko's senior aide to see Mueller and the CIA director, in November and December, were cancelled.
The report says that an "element of the understanding" between Poroshenko and Trump was that Ukraine agreed to import US coal and signed a $1bn contract for American-made diesel trains.
These deals can only be understood as Poroshenko buying American support, the reports say.
In March, the Trump administration announced the symbolically important sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
Even under President Obama, the US did not sell arms to Ukraine. A well known figure in Kiev, now retired from his old job in government, told me he didn't like what had happened with the Manafort inquiry; however, Ukraine was fighting for its survival.
"I want the rule of law," he said, "but I am a patriot."
He said he had kept in touch with his former subordinates and had heard many of the details about a "Cohen backchannel".
Michael Cohen in an elevator at Trump TowerGetty Images Michael Cohen visited Donald Trump at Trump Tower in 2016 He said that if Ukrainians came to believe that a corrupt deal had been done over Mr Manafort: "This thing might destroy support for America."
Ukraine's domestic intelligence service, the SBU, did their own - secret - report on Mr Manafort.
It found that there was not one "black ledger" but three and that Mr Manafort had been paid millions of dollars more from Ukraine than had been made public. (Mr Manafort has denied any wrongdoing.)
This information was given to me by a very senior police officer who saw the report. He said it had not been passed to the Americans.
One of Michael Cohen's business partners — known as 'the Taxi King' — just reportedly agreed to cooperate with the government
Michael Cohen. Drew Angerer/Getty Images One of Michael Cohen's business partners is now cooperating with the government, The New York Times reported. That could increase the likelihood of Cohen's cooperation, The Times wrote. The business associate is known as "the Taxi King." One of Michael Cohen's business partners, known as "the Taxi King," agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness as part of a plea deal, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Times wrote that his cooperation could be used as leverage to get Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer, to work with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign engaged in any collusion with Russian officials.
Evgeny Friedman, a Russian immigrant who earned the nickname "the Taxi King," will avoid jail time under the agreement and will assist federal and state prosecutors in investigations, The Times reported.
Cohen is currently under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. He has not been charged with a crime. Mueller initially reviewed Cohen's conduct prior to referring it to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. Cohen's next court date in that case is set for Thursday.
The FBI raided Cohen's home, office, and hotel room last month, and those documents are currently undergoing a review, which is being overseen by a special master to determine what falls under attorney-client privilege and what can be used by the government in a potential prosecution of Cohen. Federal investigators sought Cohen's business documents in the raids.
Cohen is a significant operator in the taxi business, owning a substantial number of taxi medallions, and was partners with Friedman for years.
As The Times wrote, Trump's lawyers know there is a strong chance that the investigation into his businesses leads to Cohen cooperating with the government. Friedman's cooperation only makes the chances of that stronger, the publication noted.
US firm that gave cash to Michael Cohen helped secure millions for Putin-linked oligarch
Files reviewed by Guardian shed new light on ties between Columbus Nova, Viktor Vekselberg and Kremlin-allied bankers
Jon SwaineLast modified on Wed 23 May 2018 06.02 EDT A company that paid Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s legal fixer, was also involved in securing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for a Russian oligarch from a bank with ties to Russia’s intelligence services.
Columbus Nova, an investment firm based in New York, confirmed earlier this month that it paid Cohen half a million dollarsin consulting fees. The company is the US affiliate of Renova Group, a Moscow-based corporation owned by Viktor Vekselberg, one of Russia’s richest men.
Records reviewed by the Guardian show that American investment vehicles managed for Vekselberg by Columbus Nova were used to secure $450m in loans that Vekselberg took from the Russian state-controlled VTB Bank.
The records shed new light on the complex financial ties between a firm found to have been paying the US president’s personal attorney, a Russian billionaire on good terms with Vladimir Putin, and bankers allied with the Kremlin.
Vekselberg, 61, was questioned by agents working for Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating alleged collusion between Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign team. US authorities concluded that Putin ordered an operation to help Trump win. Vekselberg is not accused of any wrongdoing.
Columbus Nova’s chief executive, Vekselberg’s cousin Andrew Intrater, donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration fund. He has since donated $35,000 to the president’s joint 2020 fundraising effort with the Republican National Committee, where Cohen is a senior official.
A spokesman for Columbus Nova, who declined to speak on the record, said the funding supplied to Vekselberg by VTB was not actually used by Vekselberg’s American investment vehicles. A spokesman for Vekselberg did not respond to requests for comment. Columbus Nova has insisted Vekselberg had no involvement in hiring Cohen.
Filings to Delaware authorities show that Bounty Investments, an investment vehicle that Columbus Nova managed for Vekselberg, was named in 2010 as the borrower on four loans from VTB Capital, the Russian bank’s investment arm.
In Russia, VTB Capital had recently described itself as “pivotal in managing the state’s interests” and said Putin took an active interest in its operations. VTB was sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2014 in response to Putin’s annexation of part of Ukraine. Vekselberg himself was recently sanctioned by the US.
A source familiar with the arrangement said Vekselberg’s company Renova Group borrowed $450m through VTB Group in November 2008. The following year, Vekselberg was asked to provide additional collateral for the funding and used his stakes in US investment vehicles managed by Columbus Nova. Records indicate that the loans were all paid off by May 2011.
A spokeswoman for VTB said in a statement: “The loan was provided in ordinary course of business of VTB Group and in line with prevailing market conditions.” Cohen and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
VTB Bank is closely connected with the Russian government. Its chairman, Andrey Kostin, is a state-decorated former Soviet official who was stationed in London during the 1980s. VTB has dismissed claims by some historians and analysts that Kostin’s work was intelligence-related. The bank said this was “incorrect gossip” and that Kostin was a diplomat.
The bank’s spokeswoman said: “We categorically deny the allegations that Mr Kostin has ever had affiliations with the Russian intelligence services, nor has he ever worked for the FSB or other national security organisations. We recommend you to ask the British and American secret services on this subject. They definitely should confirm our statement.”
Vasily Titov, VTB’s former deputy chairman who was reported to have departed last October, was also the chairman of the public council of the FSB, a successor agency to the KGB.
Yet a former Trump business associate sought funding from VTB during the 2016 election campaign for a planned Trump property development in Moscow, according to a report published last month by Democrats on the House Intelligence committee.
The associate, Russian-born developer Felix Sater, described Kostin as “Putin’s top finance guy” in an email to Trump’s legal fixer Michael Cohen and said Kostin had shown willingness to “finance Trump Moscow”. Kostin later denied that any such discussions took place.
Until both websites recently went offline, Renova’s website named Columbus Nova among its holdings and Columbus Nova’s said it was “the US investment vehicle for the Renova Group”. In a statement earlier this month, Columbus Nova said it was “solely owned and controlled by Americans”.
In December 2015, Vekselberg was a guest at a much-discussed dinner in Moscow to celebrate the state-backed RT television channel, which was also attended by Putin and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/201 ... are_btn_tw
Michael Cohen’s Still-Missing Ukraine Background Info
Donald Trump, Petro Poroshenko President Donald J. Trump and President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine. Photo credit: The White House / Wikimedia The BBC has reported that Michael Cohen, perhaps Donald Trump’s closest lieutenant for many years, took money for introducing the Ukrainian leader to the US president.
There’s a lot of noise over Cohen accepting $400,000 for trying to get President Petro Poroshenko a paltry few minutes with Trump during the Ukrainian’s visit to the United States last June. There’s some irony in Cohen taking that huge payoff, which angered Ukrainians dissatisfied with the inadequate result. Especially because the whole gang around Trump is, if anything, identified with Putin-friendly elements in Ukraine, not with the Ukrainian nationalists associated with Poroshenko.
Nonetheless, the publicity generated by a successful meeting with Trump would have had immeasurable political value back home in Ukraine, because Poroshenko could show that he could get the US government’s ear for the cause of an independent Ukraine.
The most interesting thing that came out of the meeting was that, immediately afterwards, Ukraine stopped cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the activities of Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in Ukraine. So though Poroshenko may not have gotten anything much for his $400k, Trump-Manafort-Cohen-et all certainly did.
The larger context here is Cohen’s own strange and deep ties to Ukraine and Ukrainian money, and Russia and Russian money, going back many years. These predate his entry into Trump’s orbit.
It’s kind of stunning to think about just how many people around Trump have their own direct ties and interests with Russia, Ukraine, and the whole former Soviet Union. Cohen’s are especially intriguing. As is the fact that he never seems to be bothered by legal or ethical standards. For example, despite his intercession on behalf of Ukraine, Cohen did not register as a foreign agent.
For a deep dig on Cohen’s background, read our in-depth report from last September below.
Michael Cohen, Trump Tower_Entrance Michael Cohen, attorney. Photo credit: IowaPolitics.com / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Preston Kemp / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
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.
Research assistance: Claire Wang
Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from FBI seal (Andy L / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), Michael Cohen (Blacklist21 / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 4.0), and Petro Poroshenko (Antonis Samaras Prime Minister of Greece / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0).
Trump is having a very loud public meltdown – all thanks to Michael Cohen
Between Ukraine and his associate Evgeny Freidman, it’s heating up for the president's former lawyer.
Rick Wilson 24 May 2018 7:46 PM If you’re wondering why President Trump’s mad-dog frenzy in the last 48 hours has surpassed even his typically manic tone, look no further than Michael Cohen’s mounting legal troubles. Two new fronts were opened this week, pushing Cohen closer to the edge of a painful, existential choice: cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, or an extended, unpleasant stay in federal prison. Trump can sense his friend edging closer to capitulation and his own legal peril mounting as Cohen begins to crack. As usual, he’s having a very public, very loud meltdown.
First came the news that Gene Freidman, Cohen’s associate in his taxi-medallion enterprise, has flipped. You’ll be shocked (and by ‘shocked’ I mean, ‘entirely unsurprised’) to learn that Soviet émigré “Gene” Freidman, formerly “Evgeny” is tied to – wait for it – shady Russian and Ukrainian interests. For those of you in more civilised climes, New York’s taxi business isn’t the most genteel and ethical business niche; it’s notoriously mobbed-up. Cohen comes from the same Russian wiseguy-inflected, criminal enterprise-adjacent circles as Freidman. Freidman has now pledged to assist Federal officials in their investigation of Cohen, and by extension, Trump.
The second source of new psychological and legal pressure on Trump and Cohen came from the BBC’s Paul Wood. In an impeccably-sourced piece, Wood revealed yesterday that Cohen has engaged in illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukraine, serving in both of his usual roles as fixer for and conduit to Donald Trump.
All this news has forced Cohen and Trump into a wave of thin and implausible denials. Cohen is no doubt having to listen to his attorney melt the phone in a volcanic torrent of rage over how Cohen has failed to meet the requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). Oh, that Foreign Agents Registration Act. You know, that law that requires anyone doing paid work on behalf of a foreign government to register with the United States Department of Justice.
While Donald Trump may think our laws are for the little people, the FARA violation in Cohen’s $400,000-$600,000 payday from Ukraine’s President Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko won’t get a pass from the Feds just because Michael Cohen is the President’s friend and fixer. According to Wood’s bombshell BBC story, Poroshenko was willing to pay Cohen handsomely for access to Trump, and his allies went straight to Michael Cohen, self-proclaimed super-lawyer to the President. Cohen saw a sweet payday coming, and somehow got the Ukrainians to pay in advance.
Cohen delivered for the Ukrainians. Poroshenko and Trump met in the White House in June 2017, despite objections from Trump’s inner circle. The meeting was a success for Trump; in a move that stretched coincidence to the very edges of reason, the moment Poroshenko returned to Kiev after his whirlwind trip to Washington, Ukraine’s anti-corruption agency suddenly – shocker! – dropped their investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Dropping the inquiry into Manafort’s longstanding ties and service to Poroshenko’s Putin-friendly predecessor Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych raised more than a few eyebrows in Kiev and Washington.
It’s not as if Poroshenko had been previously been unwilling to tear into Yanukovych’s financial and political misdeeds, but suddenly the connection between Manafort and Yanukovych was mysteriously no longer of interest. Pay no attention, Poroshenko seemed to be saying, to Pavel Manafort’s history with Yanukovych’s discredited Party of Nations, or his work for Russian oligarchs and Putin clients Oleg Deripaska and Dmitri Firtash. It was clear that Poroshenko, like Yanukovych before him, understood that access and power in Washington comes with a price tag. Poroshenko, doubtless with a nudge from Cohen, understood that any pressure on Manafort was pressure on Trump.
Cohen’s partner in the Ukraine deal was the notorious Felix Sater, because of course it was. Sater, the bad penny of the Trump/Russia story, is like a spider in the center of a scuzzy web. Sater is a character so lavishly corrupt and colorful that even a Hollywood screenwriter would discard him as too ludicrous. The deal Cohen and Sater constructed for unregistered, illegal lobbying efforts on behalf of the Poroshenko government had unintended consequences. Now that Cohen has been ratted out by Ukrainian government sources, the pressure to flip and cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller is rising by the minute. Cohen’s money trail is nowhere near as sophisticated as Manafort’s, and dogged Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti rather easily exposed Suspicious Activity Reports from the U.S. Treasury regarding Cohen’s payoffs from Ukrainian interests.
For Donald Trump, these new pressures on Michael Cohen are obviously a source of raw terror and goes a long way to explain the recent hair-tearing and garment-rending on the President’s part. It’s not because Cohen was a client of Freidman’s in the taxi business, it’s because Freidman can verify and validate Cohen’s connections to the vast wave of Russian money washing over Trump’s business interests. It’s not simply that Cohen was cashing in; it’s that violating FARA exposes him to more discovery, legal jeopardy, and opens new avenues for the Special Counsel’s investigation. None of this is, as they say, a good look for Trump.
Michael Cohen’s deep entanglement with Donald Trump as his attorney, sleaze consigliere, and fawning fixer was a matter of record even before these new stories appeared. As Mueller and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York peel back the layers of Cohen’s shady business dealings, it shines an unwelcome light on Trump’s businesses, taxes, financial dealings, debts, and personal conduct.
Before he reached too far, Cohen was a man mostly behind the curtain, a sometimes sinister voice threatening legal misery on behalf of his powerful client. The risks he took to achieve a lucrative, immediate payday in the wake of Donald Trump’s election speak not only to Cohen’s greed but also to his clear expectation that Donald Trump would look the other way as his longtime associate and toady cashed in. Like any mobster, Cohen wanted his cut.
Lobbying is an old, old game in Washington and around the world. People who know the people in power, who have access and can open doors, build friendships, and move policy mountains – get things done. In the United States and much of the West, it’s an organised and systematic process governed by laws, mores, and public scrutiny. Sure, lobbying can sleazy but it isn’t generally as scummy as lobbyists like Cohen and Manafort may lead you to believe. Even the most morally ambiguous players in the Washington game understand that there are limits and boundaries. Most people play by the rules. A few cautionary tales like that of Jack Abramoff tend to be memorable.
Far from Trump draining his famous swamp, Michael Cohen’s patron has now created a climate too tempting for venal, small men like Cohen to resist. From Stormy Daniels to Trump Tower Moscow, to a constellation of American corporate interests who stroked him six-figure checks, to illegal lobbying for foreign governments, Michael Cohen now has the world’s largest ‘kick me’ sign on his back, all because he sold himself as a man who could deliver.
Just as there is no political Trumpism without Trump, neither is there a shield from legal consequence for his minions, emulators, hangers-on, and wannabe power-players. As shocked as Cohen must have been when the Southern District of New York executed a thorough, full-throttle raid on his home, office, and hotel room, Cohen may have thought he had weathered the storm. He was wrong. Things are about to get even more ugly for Michael Cohen. The irony of Cohen’s mob-manque tough-guy act is that he had to be aware of how these stories always end; lower-level players flip or die. Now, Cohen’s freedom is contingent on giving prosecutors a bigger fish to fry. Trump knows it, Cohen knows it, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller most certainly knows it. https://usa.spectator.co.uk/2018/05/tru ... ael-cohen/