Fixer, or Gatekeeper?
Presidential lawyer and longtime “fixer” Michael Cohen reportedly received $4.4 million in payments from various companies, including AT&T and drug-maker Novartis, in return for promises of White House access.
The New York Times revealed the discovery Monday after having sifted through undisclosed financial records that showed the payments being funneled through Cohen’s shell corporation, Essential Consultants L.L.C., which was used to pay off adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels.
Cohen collected the payments in return for “consulting” services and apparently promised access to the president as well as those close to him.
“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.” – Anonymous Novartis employee
On Tuesday, Clifford’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, revealed that the limited liability company had also received a half a million dollars from known Russian billionaire and oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who has been sanctioned by the U.S.
So far it’s been confirmed that the following companies paid funds to Essential Consultants LLC:
- AT&T – approximately $200,000 for “insight” into the administration
- Columbus Nova – approximately $500,000 for “consulting;” the company is linked to Vekselberg
- Novartis – $100K per month for one year, $1.2 million total, for “healthcare policy matters;” the company is a pharmaceutical giant
- Korea Aerospace Industries – $150,000 for advice on “local accounting standards“
According to the Huffington Post, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has known about the payments for quite some time.
“Novartis was contacted in November 2017 by lawyers from the special counsel’s office regarding the company’s agreement with Essential Consultants. Novartis cooperated fully with the special counsel’s office and provided all the information requested. Novartis considers this matter closed as to itself and is not aware of any outstanding questions regarding the agreement.” – Novartis official statement
Rudy Giuliani, the newest addition to the presidential legal team, said that the media should “calm down” about the payments.
A memo to AT&T staff Wednesday also downplayed the transaction, calling it routine:
“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 how often is it that that consultant is also the president’s personal lawyer?
However, it appears that Cohen was unable to live up to his commitments.
Novartis released a statement which outlined their disappointment in Cohen and his services:
“Novartis determined that Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants 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.”
Clifford’s lawyer, Avenatti, had this to say:
“It’s beyond that it doesn’t look good. This is the right-hand attorney of the president. If that attorney is selling access to the president without the requisite disclosures, that is a serious problem.”
Since the president and his team have already escaped so many scandals that would’ve decimated any other administration, we aren’t getting our hopes up just yet.
Iron Triangle Press will continue to cover this story.
For our most recent coverage of the Cohen scandal, click here.