After several news organizations including NBC and the New York Times independently corroborated the allegations included in a scandal-laden dossier published last night by Stormy Daniels attorney (and former Rahm Emanuel oppo researcher) Michael Avenatti, the lawyer took to the cable news shows Wednesday, where he continued his assault on Cohen.
During an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Avenatti told his hosts – who have a long history of quarreling with the president – that any doubts about Cohen’s financial dealings – which included a business link with a Russian oligarch who is now under US sanction – could easily be dispelled if Trump and his personal attorney would just release their financial statements.
“Look, let me say this, to the extent that it’s not accurate, the president and Michael Cohen should clear this up this morning…they should release the bank statements this morning,” Avenatti said.
Cohen, who had paid Daniels $130,000 so she would stay quiet about an affair she’d had with Trump roughly 10 years earlier, was swiftly paid $500,000 by Viktor Vekselberg – money that Avenatti suggested could’ve been a reimbursement for the Daniels payment. President Trump has said that the money used to pay Daniels came from a retainer agreement with Cohen – while Cohen once testified that he took the money from a home equity line.
Asked by his hosts whether the money could’ve possibly been used to pay off other women, Avenatti admitted that he hasn’t found anything to confirm that.
But lest their audience get the wrong idea, Avenatti assured his hosts that the payments appear to be evidence that Cohen was selling access to the president.
“I don’t know yet whether this particular account connects to other women but I do know that this is an enormous amount of money flowing into this account beginning in October and November 2016 you’ve got millions of dollars flowing into this account – you’ve basically got Michael Cohen selling access to the president of the United States.”
“We understand that it was a one-year relationship now thanks to the statement Novartis just issued.”
Avenatti also joked about the explanations provided by some of the companies named in the dossier, including pharmaceutical company Novartis and AT&T, among others. AT&T, for example, said it paid Cohen for his “insight” into Trump’s mind – not for any specific consulting work.
“We now have multiple different things that Cohen is doing for all these companies. Now we hear from Novartis that he was hired on health care matters evidently he’s a doctor, another company hired him on real-estate matters evidently he’s a real-estate agent, another company hired him for accounting advice…so he’s a doctor, a real-estate agent, a lawyer and an accountant…I’m just a lawyer, I’m not that bright I guess,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti also highlighted Novartis’s admission that it had paid Cohen in four installments of $99,980 because the company, which is based in Switzerland, would’ve been forced to notify regulators about a payments.
“The reason why it wouldn’t have been $100,000 is because there’s an internal reporting at Novartis that would’ve required the parent company to report the money in Switzerland.”
Regardless of how Avenatti got his hands on Cohen’s banking records (we imagine somebody inside First Republic, or perhaps one of Cohen’s accountants, might’ve leaked it to him after seeing him on TV), companies that made payments to Cohen are scrambling to produce explanations for why the money ended up in his account.
According to Bloomberg, their explanations have mostly raised further questions like: How were these companies steered toward Cohen, where did the money – more than $4 million by Avenatti’s count – go? And are there any other companies that haven’t yet been exposed?
To that list, we’d like to add another: how are these payments factoring into the federal probe, which purportedly includes allegations of bank fraud.
Avenatti revealed Tuesday night during an interview with MSNBC that First Republic had flagged some of the transactions to the US Treasury. He’s asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to make those reports public.
Novartis revealed Wednesday that it had been contacted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and had cooperated fully. It also said its business relationship with Cohen had ended after a one-year contract had expired.
And with Avenatti hinting at a possible “Dossier Part II” in the works, we imagine there could be dozens of other companies scrambling to assemble a PR strategy to explain exactly how and why their money ended up in Cohen’s bank account.