Trump attorney’s business scrutinized
WASHINGTON » Already under investigation for a payment to a porn star, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney is facing intensifying legal and ethical scrutiny for selling his Trump World experience and views at a hefty price to companies that sought “insight” into t he new president.
One company, pharmaceutical giant Novartis, acknowledged Wednesday it paid Michael Cohen $1.2 million for services, though they ended after a single meeting. Others, including some with major regulatory matters before the new administration, acknowledged payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars over at least several months.
The corporate ties could suggest Cohen was peddling his influence and profiting from his relationship with the president. They also raise questions about whether Trump knew about the arrangement.
Cohen’s corporate ties were first revealed in a detailed report released by an attorney for pornographic film-actress Stormy Daniels. The report alleged that Cohen used a company he established weeks before the 2016 election to receive the payments from a variety of businesses — including $500,000 from one associated with a Russian billionaire. Financial documents reviewed by the Associated Press appear to back up much of attorney Michael Avenatti’s report.
Cohen’s lawyers said late Wednesday that much of the information released by Avenatti was “completely inaccurate.” They told a New York judge that Avenatti made statements “in an apparent attempt to prejudice and discredit Mr. Cohen” as he seeks to intervene in a civil case Cohen brought stemming from April 9 raids on his home and office. The raids were carried out by federal agents looking for evidence in a criminal probe.
The lawyers wrote that some of the information Avenatti published Tuesday did appear to come from Cohen’s actual bank records.
Avenatti responded on Twitter, saying the attorneys “fail to address, let alone contradict, 99% of the statements in what we released. Among other things, they effectively concede the receipt of the $500,000 from those with Russian ties.”
Asked about the reports of the payments to Cohen Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said on NBC News that it was a “private matter” and “something I don’t have any knowledge about.”
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani told Bloomberg News Wednesday that Trump was “unaware” of the payments to Cohen.