Michael Avenatti, the attorney for Stormy Daniels, took long time Trump lawyer Michael Cohen – and perhaps other Michael Cohens as well – on a rollercoaster ride of accusations. Mr. Avenatti published a document, titled an “Executive Summary,” that purported to expose details of how Mr. Cohen received payments from a Russian Oligarch, among others, to an account which was then used to pay the $130,000 non-disclosure agreement between Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels. Mr. Avenatti now alleges that the payment to Ms. Daniels was either made or reimbursed by an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Some of the payments he details were confirmed by the payees, including AT&T and Novartis, and give strong rise to the implication they were made for influence or access to the president.
Mr. Avenatti is not a federal, state, or local prosecutor, or banking regulator, he is Ms. Daniels’s attorney, who represents her in a suit trying to invalidate the confidentiality agreement she signed in October of 2016, on the eve of the presidential election. She was shopping a story to tabloids about her 2006 tryst with Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trump paid for her silence. Avenatti did not disclose how he obtained the private and detailed financial records of others, but he has stated that his near constant presence on television and in the newspapers has yielded many sources of information.
At First We Practice to Deceive
Essential Consultants is the name of the Delaware Corporation established by Mr. Cohen on October 17, 2016, presumably for the purpose of keeping private the source of the $130,000 payment to Daniels. The Avenatti document states that from its inception until January of this year, Mr. Cohen used that company and its bank accounts:
to engage in suspicious financial transactions totaling $4,425,033.46. Chief among these suspicious financial transactions are approximately $500,000 in payments received from Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian Oligarch with an estimated net worth of nearly $13 Billion. Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (“Columbus”) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.
However, at least one of the payments detailed in the Avenatti report does not have to do with the president’s attorney Michael Cohen. As reported by the Daily Caller:
Zainal Kassim, a representative for Actuarial Partners, told The Daily Caller News Foundation Avenatti’s report is a case of mistaken identity. He forwarded an email the falsely accused Michael Cohen sent to Avenatti requesting the lawyer “correct this error forthwith and make it known publicly” there is no connection to Trump’s Michael Cohen.
Return on Investment
The bad news for President Trump and his attorney is that the misattributed funds were a $980 payment from a Kenyan bank. The big money transactions were not disputed, and some, at least, under-reported as the New York Times states in an op-ed:
On Wednesday, Novartis said it had actually spent $1.2 million in total, $800,000 more than was originally reported, and AT&T said it had paid as much as $600,000, three times what had been reported. Both issued statements denying any wrongdoing but still leaving the impression that they were paying for access to the president or his fixer.
Both companies reported Wednesday that they were interviewed by Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel’s office on these payments and have co-operated with the investigation.
Mr. Cohen is not a registered lobbyist or known to be a political or policy consultant. It certainly appears he traded on his proximity and access to President Trump to enrich himself. What if any knowledge or involvement Trump himself had with these transactions has yet to be determined. Mr. Cohen’s actions may be legal, but they certainly present the appearance of corruption and pay for play influence peddling. Why else would a pharmaceutical company give the president’s lawyer a million dollars?