Seth Meyers Takes a Closer Look at Michael Cohen's Slush Fund

Friday, 11 May, 2018

Cohen said a report published on Tuesday by Avenatti's law firm detailing the payments was inaccurate. The president denies any affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Cohen's attorneys highlighted what they said were several errors in Project Sunlight, including references to other men also named Michael Cohen who are not related to Trump's longtime personal attorney. The reason for the payments was not immediately known.

Discussing the financial documents on MSNBC Wednesday, Avenatti said Cohen "appears to be selling access to the president of the United States".

Some of the companies that engaged Cohen also had contact with Trump personally.

Andrew Intrater, an American cousin of Vekselberg's, is the chief executive of Columbus Nova, which is based in NY.

His home and office have been raided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Cohen is being lampooned by comedians as a real-life version of the sleazy ambulance-chasing lawyer Saul Goodman on the hit show "Breaking Bad". And this is how Michael Cohen will suddenly become a virtual unknown to Trump.

Columbus Nova has acknowledged paying Cohen but says Vekelsberg is just an investor and had no role in the decision to pay or the payment to Cohen.

Avenatti declined to comment on the probe, and Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both Novartis and AT&T later spoke to investigators for the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Vekselberg was targeted for USA sanctions by the Trump administration last month. More recently, he has expanded his assets to include industrial equipment and high technology.

The New York Times and NBC News said they had reviewed financial documents that corroborated the payments made to Essential Consultants, the DE company set up by Cohen to pay Daniels.

"He reached out to us", the Novartis employee said of Cohen.

The second time, it explained the payments away as part of a $1.2 million consulting deal on healthcare policy that Novartis never actually used. Novartis said in a statement that it paid Cohen $100,000 a month for a yearlong contract, thinking the longtime NY legal "fixer" could advise on health care matters. Novartis said it cooperated with those queries "and provided all the information requested".

Novartis has confirmed this saying in a statement that it had entered a one-year agreement of $100,000 per month with Cohen's firm, Essential Consultants in February 2017, shortly after Trump took office.

Avenatti disclosed a wide array of previously unreported Cohen financial transactions since October 2016; he also alleged multiple cases of potential bank fraud. Cohen is not a registered lobbyist, according to public records.

The corporate ties could suggest Cohen was peddling his influence and profiting from his relationship with the president. The DOJ filed a lawsuit to block AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner in November 2017, though AT&T could still complete the merger if it gets a favorable court ruling.

They included a subsidiary of Swiss-based drug-maker Novartis, telecom giant AT&T and Columbus Nova, an American firm tied to Russian businessman Victor Vekselberg, who is under US sanctions. The payment was made under a "legal" deal between the two, said the spokesperson, who refused to answer questions about the size or dates of any payments. South Korea's KAI said on Wednesday it paid $150,000 to Cohen's firm.

The engagement of Essential Consultants predated Vas Narasimhan becoming Novartis CEO and he was in no way involved with this agreement. Companies often hire consultants for these purposes, especially at the beginning of a new Presidential Administration, and we have done so in previous Administrations, as well. But he said the arrangement described by Avenatti "certainly doesn't look good".