Trump: Cohen taping me ‘totally unheard of & perhaps illegal’

President Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that he “did nothing wrong” after reports surfaced that Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, secretly recorded him shortly before the 2016 presidential election talking about buying the rights to the story of a former Playboy model who alleges she had an affair with Trump.

In his first public comments since a series of explosive reports in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on Friday, Trump said it was “inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client — totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

The recording was seized in April when the FBI raided Cohen’s office and hotel rooms in Manhattan, The Times reported, citing lawyers and others familiar with the recording.

Laws on taping private conversations differ from state to state, and it is not clear where Cohen recorded Trump. New York state, for example, has a “one-party consent” law, which makes it a crime to record an in-person or telephone conversation unless one party participating in the conversation consents.

The Journal reported the conversation took place in September 2016, a month after American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had purchased the rights to ex-Playmate Karen McDougal’s story of the alleged extramarital affair.

Cohen suggested that he and Trump consider buying the rights to her story themselves, which would have effectively reimbursed the Enquirer for its payments to McDougal. It is unclear why they didn’t, The Journal said.

McDougal has said that AMI agreed to pay her $150,000 for her story but then did not publish it.

David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of AMI, is a Trump supporter who reportedly described the president as a “personal friend.” Former AMI employees told The New Yorker that Pecker often buys the rights to a story in order to bury it — a tabloid-industry practice called “catch and kill.”

McDougal says she had an year-long affair with Trump more than a decade ago, which Trump has denied.

McDougal also has filed a lawsuit seeking the right to speak publicly about her alleged affair with Trump. Adult film star Stormy Daniels has also sued the president to nullify a nondisclosure agreement about an alleged affair, which the White House also has denied.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said the recording demonstrated no wrongdoing by Trump.

“Nothing in that conversation suggests that [Trump] had any knowledge of it in advance,” Giuliani said. “In the big scheme of things, it’s powerful exculpatory evidence.”

Trump was “unaware” that Cohen was recording him, CNBC reported on Friday, citing a source familiar with the matter. The source also said other tapes exist, but the president’s legal team is not aware of any other “substantive tapes.” NBC News has confirmed that report.

The White House declined to comment.

Often described as Trump’s “fixer,” Cohen is the subject of a probe by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan.

Lanny Davis, an attorney for Cohen, said, “Obviously, there is an ongoing investigation, and we are sensitive to that. But suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen. Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape.”

Barbara Jones, the special master overseeing the review of evidence seized from Cohen, said on Friday she was provided with 4,085 items that Cohen, Trump or the Trump Organization marked as attorney-client privilege. But Jones pushed back on the designation of 1,452 of those items, so those will be handed over to government investigators.

Cohen’s lawyers found the recording when reviewing the seized materials from the raid and shared it with Trump’s lawyers, The Times said, citing three unnamed sources.

[NBC News]

Reality

New York is a “one-party consent” state, meaning as long as one party of the conversation, most likely you, agree to be recorded then it’s totally legal.

And of course Trump never heard of Michael Cohen’s secret tapes, that’s why they were secret tapes!

Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting

Amid intense scrutiny of contacts between Donald Trump’s inner circle and representatives of Vladimir Putin, Ivanka Trump’s name has barely come up. But during the campaign, she connected her father’s personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News and four sources with knowledge of the matter.

There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump’s contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to the other two.

The contacts reveal that even as her father was campaigning to become president of the United States, Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to arrange a meeting with one of the US’s adversaries — in order to help close a business deal that could have made the Trump family millions.

These interactions also shed new light on Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, who is under criminal investigation and who played a key role in many of Donald Trump’s biggest deals — including the audacious effort to build Europe’s tallest tower in the Russian capital.

In the fall of 2015, that effort was well underway. Cohen negotiated with Felix Sater, one of the president’s longtime business associates, and agreed upon a Russian developer to build the tower. Donald Trump personally signed a nonbinding letter of intent on Oct. 28, 2015, the day of the third Republican debate, to allow a Russian developer to brand the tower with Trump’s name. The agreement stated that the Trump Organization would have the option to brand the hotel’s spa and fitness facilities as “The Spa by Ivanka Trump” and that Ivanka Trump would be granted “sole and absolute discretion” to have the final say on “all interior design elements of the spa or fitness facilities.”

Ivanka Trump was then an executive vice president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization. Publicly, she was a sophisticated ambassador for the company, attending ribbon cuttings, posting pictures of deals on her Instagram page, and gracing advertisements for the company’s new properties. But inside the Trump Organization, she had a reputation as a shrewd and tough executive known to get her way.

Ivanka Trump, who now works in her father’s administration, did not respond to questions sent to her personal email, chief of staff, and the White House. A spokesperson for her attorney wrote that Ivanka Trump did not know about the Trump Moscow project “until after a nonbinding letter of intent had been signed, never talked to anyone outside the Organization about the proposal, and, even internally, was only minimally involved. Her only role was limited to reminding Mr. Cohen that, should an actual deal come to fruition (which it did not) the project, like any other with the Trump name, conform with the highest design and architectural standards.”

More than five hours after BuzzFeed News published this story, the spokesperson, Peter Mirijanian, wrote that he “inadvertently” left off part of the statement: “Ms. Trump did not know and never spoke to Dmitry Klokov. She received an unsolicited email from his wife (who she also did not know) and passed it on to Michael Cohen who she understood was working on any possible projects in Russia. She did no more than that.”

But interviews suggest that her involvement ran deeper.

In November 2015, Ivanka Trump told Cohen to speak with Klokov, according to the four sources. Cohen had at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter, they said. It is not known what the men discussed over the phone, but they exchanged a string of emails that are now being examined by congressional investigators and federal agents probing Russia’s election meddling.

In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.

BuzzFeed News was shown the emails on the condition we do not quote them.

It’s unclear how Ivanka Trump came into contact with Klokov. The chiseled giant, who is 35 and lives in Moscow, has 340,000 followers on Instagram, where he frequently posts pictures and videos of weightlifting and associated products bearing his name.

He won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Games and took gold at the 2005 World Championships, but he has no apparent background in real estate development. Nor is he known to be a close associate of Putin or anyone in the Russian president’s inner circle, and he does not appear to publicly participate in his country’s politics. It’s not even clear he could have made good on his offer to arrange a meeting between Putin and Donald Trump.

Klokov initially told BuzzFeed News that he did not “send any emails” to Cohen. “I don’t understand why you ask me about this,” Klokov said in text messages. “I’m weightlifter, not a political.” When told that he had sent at least two emails to Cohen and had had a phone conversation with him at Ivanka Trump’s request, Klokov stopped responding.

Cohen referred BuzzFeed News to his attorney, Stephen Ryan, who declined to comment.

FBI and congressional investigators, two of the sources said, are still trying to determine the relationship between Ivanka Trump and the Olympian.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and emails between Cohen and Klokov were among the documents that the Trump Organization turned over to the committee, according to two sources. When he was interviewed by the panel in October, Cohen released a statementdisputing allegations of a conspiracy to rig the election in Trump’s favor.

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the chair of the Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on Klokov, Ivanka Trump, or any specifics. But he said he could see how Russian athletes, like the country’s oligarchs, might be drawn into Russian politics.

“I can’t speak specifically to athletes, but you see the oligarchs, and there is a model for them, and they do things on behalf of the country and on behalf of Putin at their own expense — they’re not asked, they just assume the responsibility to do it, whether that’s a mercenary army in Syria or it’s screwing with elections; whether it’s the hacking out of the St. Petersburg facility,” Burr told BuzzFeed News. “So it’s not a stretch to say if Putin allows oligarchs to make money as long as they don’t get involved in politics and they do things that are beneficial to Putin — I could see athletes falling into the same category.”

A spokesperson for Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee vice chair, declined to comment. The special counsel’s office declined to comment as well.

Ivanka Trump wields unusually strong influence over a president known for his unpredictability and impulsiveness. Though her efforts to moderate her father’s right-wing tendencies have not always succeeded, such as when he withdrew from the Paris climate accord despite her opposition, she remains uniquely close to him. She has been by his side for years in business and was one of his most trusted and popular surrogates during the presidential campaign. She has an office in the West Wing and a small staff of advisers.

She was with her brother Donald Trump Jr. and Sater when they visited Moscow in 2006 to scout locations for a possible tower there, famously sitting in Putin’s office chair during a visit. She was also instrumental in the development of Trump SoHo, a troubled hotel and condominium tower in Manhattan. New York City prosecutors considered criminal fraud charges against Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Jr. for allegedly misleading prospective buyers at Trump SoHo, ProPublica reported last October.

[Buzzfeed]

 

NPR publishes audio of Cohen threatening reporter

New released audio recordings revealed on Thursday that President Trump‘s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen made a string of vulgar legal threats to a reporter in an effort to protect Trump.

The audio, taken from a 2015 interview with Cohen and then-Daily Beast reporter Tim Mak and published by NPR – Mak’s current employer – on Thursday, reveal Cohen making legal threats to Mak over a piece he was writing about a 1993 Trump biography.

The biography, written by former Newsweek reporter Harry Hurt III and titled “The Lost Tycoon,” details a sworn deposition from Trump’s first wife, Ivana, who alleged during her divorce proceedings that Trump had raped her.

When he reached out to Trump’s then-campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks for more information about the claim, Mak said he received an angry call from Cohen.

According to Mak, the lawyer initially attempted to convince him not to go through with the story by falsely claiming that spousal rape was not a crime.

“You’re talking about Donald Trump, you’re talking about the frontrunner for the GOP, presidential candidate, as well as private individual, who never raped anybody and of course understand that by the very definition you can’t rape your spouse,” Cohen said in one audio recording.

Spousal rape has been illegal in the state of New York, where Donald and Ivana Trump resided during their marriage, since 1984. The incident to which Ivana Trump’s claim refers took place in 1989.

“Mark my words for it, I will make sure that you and I meet one day over in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don’t have, and I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know,” Cohen went on. “Do not even think about going where I know you’re planning on going. And that’s my warning for the day.”

“Michael, besides the warning, do you have a substantive comment that I can include in the piece that reflects your views on this?” Mak responds.

“I have no views because there’s no story,” Cohen said before warning Mak to “tread very f—ing lightly because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting.”

“Do you understand me? Don’t think you can hide behind your pen because it’s not going to happen.” Cohen said. “I’m more than happy to discuss it with your attorney and with your legal counsel because motherf—er you’re going to need it.”

The release of the audio recordings come amid Cohen’s ongoing legal trouble.

Cohen is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His home and office were raided by the FBI last month as part of Mueller’s investigation.

[The Hill]

Trump lawyer ‘paid by Ukraine’ to arrange White House talks

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 who attended a Jewish charity in New York state, Chabad of Port Washington. (A spokeman for the Chabad has asked us to make clear that officials there were not involved.)

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.

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.”

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.

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.

[BBC]

Cohen asked Qatari government for $1 million in exchange for access to Trump

President Trump‘s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, reportedly offered Qatari government officials access to the president in exchange for at least $1 million.

The Washington Post reported that Cohen sought the arrangement in December 2016, around the time Qatari officials visited Trump Tower to meet with former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Cohen did not attend those meetings, but reportedly spoke about the arrangement with Qatari investor Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, the Post reported. Qatar declined the offer, according to the Post.

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels, first made Al-Rumaihi’s connection to Cohen public in a tweet last weekend.

“Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?” Avenatti tweeted.

Al-Rumaihi confirmed through a spokesperson on Tuesday that he attended meetings at Trump Tower in 2016. Al-Rumaihi said he was not a part of the meetings with Flynn.

Cohen’s reported attempts to broker a deal with Qatar follow recent revelations that multiple companies paid him in exchange for insights and access to the Trump administration.

Swiss drug company Novartis and AT&T have both acknowledged they paid Cohen for advice on how to approach the Trump administration on particular issues. Officials from both companies have called the arrangement “a mistake.”

[The Hill]

Trump Blasts ‘Fake News Media’ for Not Reporting on AT&T’s Planned Merger With Time Warner

On Friday, President Donald Trump blasted the “fake news media” for not reporting on litigation revolving around AT&T’s planned merger with Time Warner in a tweet that seemed to come out of nowhere.

“Why doesn’t the Fake News Media state that the Trump Administration’s Anti-Trust Division has been, and is, opposed to the AT&T purchase of Time Warner in a currently ongoing Trial,” Trump wrote. “Such a disgrace in reporting!”

While his exact intent was not clear, Trump was likely reacting to reports that his lawyer Michael Cohen was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by AT&T for a consulting gig that actually amounted to Cohen peddling his access to Trump.

The AT&T payment was also significant because Essential Consulting, the shell consulting firm Cohen set up to receive payments, also happens to be the firm that paid Stormy Daniels the $130,000 in hush money.

AT&T has since said it regretted hiring Cohenand claimed the damage to their reputation will not hurt their planned merger.

So far, Trump, not known for clarification,  has not issued a follow-up tweet.

[Mediaite]

Cohen promised Novartis access to Trump

President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen promised the pharmaceutical company Novartis that they could have access to President Trump and his inner circle if they signed a contract with him, a Novartis employee told Stat on Wednesday.

The employee told Stat that Cohen contacted then-chief executive officer Joe Jimenez last year, promising that he could get Novartis access to both Trump and top administration officials. Jimenez then reportedly ordered company officials to make a deal with Cohen.

“With a new administration coming in, basically, all the traditional contacts disappeared and they were all new players,” the employee told the publication. “We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”

Novartis on Wednesday in a statement said that it hired Cohen in February 2017 for consulting services, paying him a total of $1.2 million for a one-year contract.

The company also said that special counsel Robert Mueller had contacted it last year over the payments to Cohen.

“With the recent change in administration, Novartis believed that Michael Cohen could advise the company as to how the Trump administration might approach certain US healthcare policy matters, including the Affordable Care Act,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

However, Novartis said that it concluded that Cohen would “be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further.”

The contract was not terminated and Cohen continued to be paid in monthly installments through the end of the agreement.

The payments to Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, from Novartis were first detailed in a report by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti on Tuesday. Daniels is currently suing Cohen for defamation.

Cohen arranged a payment to Daniels to stay quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. Daniels is also suing Trump to void the nondisclosure agreement about the alleged affair.

[The Hill]

Michael Cohen Took Cash From Russian Oligarch After Election

The Daily Beast can confirm that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a company controlled by Putin-aligned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

The allegations were initially made Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, porn actress Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, and confirmed by a source familiar with the matter.

“How the fuck did Avenatti find out?” the source asked The Daily Beast.

According to a dossier published by Avenatti on Tuesday evening, “Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.”

The funds, Avenatti suggested, may have been used to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000 hush payment made to Daniels in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair with Trump.

Intrater was also a donor to the Republican National Committee, where Cohen served as a deputy finance chairman. In June 2017, Intrater donated $35,000 to a joint fundraising committee for the RNC and Trump’s reelection campaign. He also gave a quarter-million dollars to Trump’s inaugural committee. (Previously, Intrater gave only to Democrats like Gov. Bill Richardson and Sen. Ted Kennedy.)

Intrater and Vekselberg have also been active investors in the U.S. technology and media sectors. Columbus Nova Technology Partners was the first and only outside investor in Gawker Media, before the company was felled by a lawsuit funded by Trump ally Peter Thiel. Columbus Nova also backed the record label of former Def Jam boss Lyor Cohen, invested in the streaming music pioneer Rhapsody, and put moneybehind a gig-economy site, a “genetic risk” firm, and a company called Tomfoolery Incorporated.

Vekselberg himself has holdings all over the world—including a 26.2 percent stake in Rusal, the aluminum producing giant owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch now infamous for bankrolling former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort. Both Deripaska and Vekselberg were sanctioned by the U.S. government in early April. But later that month, the U.S. Treasury Department, in effect, slow-rolled the sanctions, giving companies and individuals until late October to get out of business with Rusal, which is appealing Washington’s ruling. “Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are… extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

And according to The New York Times, Vekselberg was recently questioned by federal agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller. CNN reported that those queries involved the oligarch’s payments to Cohen.

While Cohen’s lawyers refused to comment on the payments, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani dismissed the news as Avenatti having foresaw the president’s Tuesday withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—part of “one of the best days of the Trump presidency”—and simply trying to “stink it up as much as possible.”

In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Columbus Nova’s attorney, Richard Owens of Latham & Watkins, said: “Columbus Nova is a management company solely owned and controlled by Americans. After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures. Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Nova’s owners, were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

Cohen and Trump’s lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But this development could put further pressure on President Donald Trump’s inner circle. If Avenatti’s analysis is correct and the payments violated federal banking law, then the Cohen could be in serious legal jeopardy. There are reportedly concerns in the president’s inner circle that Cohen could begin cooperating with investigators. The greater the legal jeopardy he faces, the greater pressure he will face to cooperate. And he wouldn’t be the only one; former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Trump campaign official Rick Gates are already cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.

Meanwhile, Avenatti is making a sport of riding Cohen in the press.

[The Daily Beast]

AT&T confirms it paid Trump lawyer Michael Cohen for ‘insights’ on administration

Telecommunications giant AT&T said Tuesday night that it had paid President Donald Trump‘s lawyer Michael Cohen for “insights” about the Trump administration.

AT&T’s admission came after a lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels claimed the company, drug giant Novartis and a company controlled by a Russian oligarch had all made payments to Cohen’s shell company.

Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said AT&T had made four separate payments of $50,000 apiece to Cohen’s company, for a total of $200,000 in late 2017 and into early 2018.

That company, Essential Consultants, was created by Cohen in October 2016 and soon after was used to make a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels.

In a prepared statement to CNBC, AT&T said Cohen’s company “was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration.”

“They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017,” AT&T said.

The company did not say how much it had paid Cohen, who was the president’s personal lawyer at the time.

AT&T is in the midst of pursuing an $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. The U.S. Justice Department has sued to block that deal.

In a report on Cohen’s company, Avenatti’s law firm said that Novartis in late 2017 and early 2018 made four separate payments to Essential Consultants totaling nearly $400,000.

“Following these payments, reports surfaced that Mr. Trump took a dinner with the incoming CEO of Novartis before Mr. Trump’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in late January 2018,” Avenatti’s report said.

That CEO, Vas Narasimhan, was joined with a group of other companies’ executives at that dinner.

A Novartis spokesperson said in a statement that “any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current CEO taking office in February of this year and have expired.”

The White House declined to comment on whether Trump knew about payments to Cohen from AT&T, Novartis or Columbus Nova, the company linked to the Russian oligarch, and instead referred questions to the president’s outside legal team.

Avenatti’s report says another company, Korea Aerospace Industries LTD, paid Essential Consultants $150,000 in November 2017.

Avenatti’s client Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants on the eve of the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels says the money was in exchange for her signing a deal that required her to remain silent about an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006, shortly after the birth of his youngest son.

The White House has denied that Trump had sex with the adult film actress.

Cohen did not have an immediate comment on Avenatti’s new allegations about payments to Cohen’s company.

[CNBC]

Trump Denies ‘Changing Any Stories’ About Stormy Daniels Payment. This Tape Proves Otherwise

During a heated exchange with reporters Friday, President Donald Trump insisted that he’s “not changing any stories” related to the $130,000 hush money payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just days before the November 2016 presidential election.

“We’re not changing any stories. All I’m telling you is this country is right now running so smooth and to be bringing up that kind of crap and to be bringing up witch hunts all the time, that’s all you want to talk about,” Trump told reporters just before boarding Air Force One to Dallas.

Moments later, the president instructed reporters to “take a look at what I said” in April when he took questions from reporters aboard Air Force One about the Daniels payoff. So, what did the president say less than one month ago regarding his knowledge of the $130,000 payment? Here’s the exchange from April:

Reporter: “Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?”

Trump: “No, no. What else?”

Reporter: “Why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to her allegations?

Trump: “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you’ll have to ask Michael Cohen.”

Reporter: “Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?”

Trump: “No, I don’t know. No.”

The exchange left little room for interpretation as to whether Trump knew about the payment or not. Thus, it left no wiggle room for the president to now say that “we’re not changing any stories” after Trump’s outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that Trump repaid the $130,000 hush money sum to his longtime attorney Michael Cohen.

Whether or not Giuliani had “his facts straight” when made that comment is irrelevant. Even if Giuliani was not correct, the fact remains that the Trump team’s story about the hush money payment did, in fact, change between April and this week. Trump cannot say one moment that he didn’t know about the payment, only for his lawyer to go on national television weeks later and say the exact opposite. Again, even if Giuliani was misinformed, he still changed the narrative in the national media and, like it or not, the narrative in the media is the story.

[Mediaite]

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