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AmazonGrace

FBI raids Michael Cohen's office

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Waffle Time
GreyhoundFan

"How could we have underestimated Michael Cohen?"

Spoiler

Until the FBI raided his office, home and hotel room in April, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen was known mostly for his star turns on cable television as his client’s most cringe-worthy defender, along with his spectacularly unsuccessful effort to silence a porn actress who claims to have had an affair with Trump.

How could we have underestimated him so? Cohen, it turns out, is the Swiss Army knife of political fixers, an all-purpose tool to have at hand for just about any situation.

Consider the array of businesses that have turned to him for skills and expertise, some of which he had previously shown no signs of possessing.

The Swiss drug giant Novartis, for instance, offered Cohen, a former personal-injury lawyer with a taxi business on the side, $1.2 million for his advice on health-care policy. Or that’s what it said. When, alas, it turned out Cohen would be “unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated,” the company paid him anyway, a spokeswoman said.

Korea Aerospace Industries says it sought his guidance with reorganizing its internal accounting system. The company insisted, implausibly, that it had no idea Cohen’s firm had a connection to Trump when it paid him $150,000. At the time, it also happened to be bidding on a U.S. contract with Lockheed Martin for training jets while also juggling an embezzlement scandal.

In the estimation of AT&T, Cohen’s “insights into understanding the new administration” — which included advice on how to win approval of its $85 billion merger with Time Warner, a deal that Trump criticized on the campaign trail — were worth $600,000, according to reporting Thursday by The Post. Whatever guidance he gave must not have worked: The Justice Department has filed suit to block the deal.

And then there is the eyebrow-raising $500,000 Cohen collected to advise Columbus Nova — an investment firm that also manages money for Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg — on real estate investments.

It remains to be seen whether any of this is illegal or merely unseemly.

That will depend on what, precisely, these companies got for their money. Also potentially of interest to investigators is whether Cohen made any misstatements in the bank records of Essential Consultants, the richly apt name he gave the company — through which he handled both his hush-money payment to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, and his new business of offering his multivaried talents to eager, high-paying clients.

What it does show is that the game in Washington never really changes. The only things that shift from election to election are the most sought-after players.

That is because relationships are the lubricant of influence. When Trump won, the traditional rosters of lobbyists — ex-congressmen, lawyers from white-shoe firms, former congressional staffers — were of little use in figuring out and gaining access to a band of outsiders who came to town vowing to demolish the old order.

Cohen was not the only Trump insider to see a chance to cash in, after his hopes for a job with the new administration were dashed. The president’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, along with former Trump aide Barry Bennett, also opened a consulting firm, which quickly had more business than it could handle. “It was like shooting fish in the barrel,” Bennett told The Post.

Nor is Team Trump unique in seizing these opportunities. President Barack Obama had not been in office a month before his 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, was paid $50,000 to give a speech in Azerbaijan to a group with close ties to that repressive government.

Plouffe insisted he was there “as a private citizen, so all I’m doing is talking about elections, and the Internet and democracy.” Who would have thought that Eurasia would have such interest in the intricacies of the Iowa caucuses? Amid criticism that his presence was part of a campaign to burnish the government’s image, Plouffe announced he would give his speaking fee to pro-democracy groups.

Pay-to-play is an old tradition that goes at least as far back as the Teapot Dome scandal , and probably further. What, if anything, Cohen’s business dealings will tell us about the current Russia investigation remains anyone’s guess.

But they have illuminated the fact that Washington continues to have a most durable ecosystem: The swamp is never drained; it just gets taken over by different reptiles.

 

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Cartmann99

More drama for the coming week:

 

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Howl
23 hours ago, GreyhoundFan said:

"How could we have underestimated Michael Cohen?"

Josh Marshall has been pointing out for awhile that Michael Cohen is a wealthy man in his own right, owns a building or two in NYC even.  It was no secret that Cohen was well connected to Russian émigrés who settled in various boroughs of NYC, and he's married to a Ukrainian who brings along her own set of connections.  

Can't remember if I'd posted this article or not -- maybe on another thread. Anyway, it's the most succinct thing I've read about Russian dirty money.  As I've been saying for awhile now, when American banks abandoned Trump, Trump turned to Russian money and all Russian money is dirty money.  This article speaks directly to how Michael Cohen is a perfect fit for his situation, and when dirty Russian money comes to town, ya gotta have a fixer.  Cohen contacting corporate entities for buy-in for the possibility of access to power is just normal business as usual.  This article addresses how this played out in "Londongrad" and has been hitting the US: 

America is in the middle of a Russian influence campaign – not at the end  We need only look to London for lessons in how oligarchs apply pressure.

One way that Trump might be caught is money was and is being laundered through Trump connected real estate, but one thing I gotta say is that Trump's commitment to not leaving a paper trail (electronic or actual) may be what saves his repulsive doughy ass.  He does not use email.  I'm not aware that he personally writes letters.  I think he is extremely aware of not leaving any incriminating evidence lying around.  

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AmazonGrace

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Howl

I must say that Mueller's forensic accountants must wake up happy every day, knowing that there is literally endless blatant financial malfeasance for them to discover and deconstruct. 

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AmazonGrace

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Tired
fraurosena
On 13-5-2018 at 2:21 AM, Howl said:

One way that Trump might be caught is money was and is being laundered through Trump connected real estate, but one thing I gotta say is that Trump's commitment to not leaving a paper trail (electronic or actual) may be what saves his repulsive doughy ass.  He does not use email.  I'm not aware that he personally writes letters.  I think he is extremely aware of not leaving any incriminating evidence lying around.  

You might be right about the paper trail. However, there is (oh Lordy) such a thing as tapes. :my_biggrin:

Phone calls can be traced and/or taped. Face-to-face discussions can be taped. And don't forget, Fredo-dumb, Fredo-dumber, Princess Plastic and Phony-face Jared all do make use of email.  I'm also willing to bet all of them, the presidunce included, use Telegram (the Russian equivalent of WhatsApp) to communicate. All very traceable.

Mueller has so many ways of proving money laundering that I'm guessing he's spoiled for choice. 

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Howl
Posted (edited)

All true, but Trump's been dirty for decades and has managed to elude major criminal investigation.   You're right, though.  The resources available to the Mueller investigation are of an entirely different magnitude, with a lot of people who are very good at connecting dots and who knows what has been exposed by the Cohen raid. 

Another thing about Cohen.  His approach to all of these businesses is likely the SOP he's used for years to determine if  an entity wants to play whichever game is afoot at the time. 

Interesting times! 

Edited by Howl

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Tired
fraurosena
Posted (edited)

The latest filing in the case is Avenatti’s rebuttal to Cohen’s protesting the Court should not allow him to act pro hac vice as Clifford’s lawyer in the case. 

I know I’ve said before that I don’t like Avenatti’s personality and tv antics, but I will say unequivocally that I admire the way he argues for the Court. Going by this filing, he’s a damn good lawyer who really knows his stuff.

 

Edited by fraurosena
Redundant comma

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Waffle Time
GreyhoundFan

"The most disturbing part of the Michael Cohen story"

Spoiler

To understand the sorry state of federal public corruption law and its present inability to punish even the most egregious influence-peddling, consider a hypothetical scenario involving President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Cohen was reportedly paid several million dollars over the past year by companies seeking an in with the Trump administration. For an administration that promised to “drain the swamp,” Cohen’s brazen behavior sounds decidedly swampy — Washington business as usual, only more so. But based on the publicly available evidence, Cohen’s behavior is slimy but likely not criminal.

In fact, it would take a great deal for Cohen’s activities to cross the line into criminal corruption. And that is the remarkable, and disturbing, aspect of the Cohen story: just how freely access to government power may be bought and sold these days without running afoul of the criminal law.

Thus, a disturbing hypothetical: Even if Cohen explicitly sold access in the form of meetings with Trump administration officials — indeed, even if those officials themselves received a portion of Cohen’s fees in exchange for attending the meetings — it would be difficult, if not impossible, to mount a successful public-corruption prosecution.

For that, influence peddlers and politicians can thank former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell — or, more precisely, the Supreme Court justices who unanimously overturned McDonnell’s convictions.

McDonnell was found guilty of corruption after accepting more than $170,000 in secret gifts. But in June 2016 the court found that McDonnell’s favors for his benefactor — including sending emails, making phone calls and arranging introductions to other government officials — did not amount to “official acts” under federal corruption law. The court ruled that bribery requires a more substantial exercise of government power as part of a corrupt deal. Merely providing introductions or access to public officials is not enough.

The court in McDonnell v. United States endorsed an extremely cramped view of public corruption. A public official’s time and attention are finite resources, and access is valuable. For proof, we need look no further than the fact that major corporations were willing to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to Cohen, who offered little apparent relevant experience but was “promising access” to the new administration.

McDonnell allows such access to be sold to the highest bidder — not just by lobbyists but also by government officials themselves. After McDonnell, public officials are free to enrich themselves by offering access only to those willing to pay, because taking a meeting or a phone call is not an “official act.” And, of course, the everyday citizen or “little guy” who can’t pay gets left out in the cold.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney displayed this mind-set recently when he said that while he was a congressman, “If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you were a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” Although Mulvaney’s comments provoked widespread outrage, McDonnell makes it clear that the practice he described is perfectly legal.

In Cohen’s case, a bribery prosecution would require proof that, in exchange for the payments, he secured agreements from Trump or other administration officials to perform specific official acts, such as lifting sanctions against Russia or pursuing a particular health-care or telecommunications policy. But proving such a clear quid pro quo is not easy. Personal connections may result in influence and tacit understandings that are simultaneously very real and nearly impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. And that again explains why access itself can be such a valuable commodity.

Investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reportedly spoke months ago with the companies that paid Cohen hundreds of thousands of dollars for “consulting services.” Prosecutors will no doubt follow the money in search of potential criminal violations. But those may be hard to find. In the current legal environment, politicians and those close to them are generally free to buy and sell access to government power with little fear of prosecution.

McDonnell was simply the latest in a series of Supreme Court decisions over the past two decades narrowing federal corruption laws. Cumulatively, those decisions have created multiple safe harbors for behavior that most would consider clearly corrupt. Congress could step in and reform those laws but has shown little interest in doing so.

Swamp, drain thyself? I don’t plan to hold my breath.

McDonnell (AKA "Transvag Bob" for his assertion that all women seeking abortions should be forced to undergo a trans-vaginal ultrasound) is such a slimy worm. I'm surprised Dumpy hasn't hired him too. 

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AmazonGrace

Daily Fail reports Cohen promised to funnel bribes to Trump 

 

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AmazonGrace

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AmazonGrace

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AmazonGrace

 It's an old story but interesting in light of the speculation that Broidy might not have paid Cohen to cover for his own affair but took the fall for someone else. 

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Tired
fraurosena

Another theory about Broidy...

Hey, Look: More Evidence That Broidy May Have Been Covering for Trump in That Playmate Affair

Quote

Saturday, December 2, 2017, was a big day for David Dennison. Dennison — as Donald Trump was called in his hush-money agreement with Stormy Daniels — was taking a break from the golfing trips that had dominated his weekends for that entire fall. Today there was no time for golf: He was traveling from the White House to New York City, where he would spend all day on Wall Street, fundraising for his 2020 reelection campaign, and for the Republican National Committee.

Trump would not get back to the White House until 4:45 p.m., but he still found time in his busy schedule that day for one more meeting. That get-together was with a wealthy Republican fundraiser and lobbyist, Elliott Broidy. Broidy, who had been convicted in 2009 of bribing public officials, had spent all of 2017 investing enormous amounts of time and money to acquire what his business partner George Nader termed “this priceless asset” — a private meeting with the president of the United States.

In fact this asset could be given a quite precise price. A remarkable investigative report from the Associated Press describes what appeared to be a particularly brazen quid pro quo:

After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.

He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”

To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations. Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.

Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work. It was time to cash in.

In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men.

Those consulting contracts, according to Broidy’s own correspondence, were what the December 2 meeting was about. And, a few days later, Broidy got his payoff: The U.A.E. awarded his company a deal worth up to $600 million over the next five years.

Here is some additional context that now seems especially noteworthy: Just two days before that meeting, on November 30, Broidy wired $200,000 from his Bank of America account to Real Estate Attorneys’ Group, a California firm. On December 5, REAG transferred that money to attorney Keith Davidson. Davidson was at the time supposedly representing the legal interests of Shera Bechard, a Playboy model with whom Broidy now claims to have had an affair. (Bechard fired Davidson shortly afterward, when she became convinced that Davidson was actually working in concert with Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal attorney, to protect Cohen’s client’s interests rather than hers.) That $200,000 was supposed to be the first of eight quarterly payments that “David Dennison” agreed to make to Bechard, in order to buy her silence about an affair and a subsequent abortion. All this was laid out in an NDA recovered from Michael Cohen’s office when it was raided last month. That agreement had been signed in October 2016, just weeks before the presidential election.

Four days after after the raid on Cohen’s office, on April 13, The Wall Street Journal published a story claiming that this David Dennison, in the NDA signed by Shera Bechard, was none other than Elliott Broidy — despite its being precisely the same pseudonym Trump had used in the Stormy Daniels NDA.

The paper’s basis for its scoop was this: Whoever leaked the existence of the Bechard NDA to the Journal also asserted that the agreement was between Bechard and Broidy. The Journal’s reporters confronted Broidy, and Broidy immediately confessed to having had a long-running affair with Bechard, and subsequently agreeing to pay her $1.6 million to buy her silence about it. The first payment of the agreement was supposed to be due on December 1, 2017. That is the story Broidy told the Journal, and that story has, remarkably enough, become accepted as simple fact. Indeed, the AP concludes its bombshell exposé of Broidy’s machinations by observing that Broidy had gotten Shera Bechard pregnant, and had “agreed to pay her $1.6 million to help her out, as long as she never spoke about it.”

But as I argued at length and in detail in this space two weeks ago, Broidy’s account raises a lot of questions — and I believe a more plausible explanation of all the facts at hand is that he agreed to pay Bechard seven figures as a favor to Donald Trump, who actually impregnated Bechard, and then needed to hush her up about their affair and her subsequent abortion.

Trump, I pointed out, is exactly the kind of man who has affairs with women like Shera Bechard, while Broidy has a history of bribing public officials to further his business interests — indeed, he had even made payments to the mistress of a politician he was bribing. And it was clear Broidy had spent much of 2017 touting his connections to Trump to various foreign officials.

The AP exposé only strengthens the evidence for my hypothesis: The first payment from Broidy came two days before the meeting that apparently helped him ink a nine-figure deal with a foreign country — a deal based in no small part on his access to, and influence on, Trump. If it’s difficult to imagine Broidy being willing to take the fall for Trump’s affair with Bechard and then paying her a seven-figure sum, it’s much simpler to imagine it simply as a perfectly timed and fantastically profitable bribe.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the only hard evidence for Broidy’s claim that his payoff to Bechard wasn’t actually a straight-up bribe of the president of the United States continues to be Broidy’s own assertions. (My repeated attempts to get Bechard’s current attorney, Peter Stris, to comment on this matter have been unsuccessful.) Journalists — including those AP reporters who pulled together such a remarkable and important story — might want to be cautious about taking Broidy’s word on the matter at face value.

 

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AmazonGrace

Don't look now but somebody just flipped.

 

 

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Howl

Oh, look! "the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant"

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Cartmann99
On 5/15/2018 at 11:16 PM, AmazonGrace said:

Daily Fail reports Cohen promised to funnel bribes to Trump 

 

I was scrolling down to find the new stuff and I read your comment too fast. I thought it said Cohen was funneling babies to Trump and I was like WTH?

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Meh
onekidanddone
50 minutes ago, Cartmann99 said:

I was scrolling down to find the new stuff and I read your comment too fast. I thought it said Cohen was funneling babies to Trump and I was like WTH?

Never ever ever let that man near babies, kittens or puppies.

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