Tag Archives: money laundering

The Trump Swamp: ‘pay to play’ corruption

Over the weekend the New York Times and the Washington Post did some excellent investigative reporting into the shady finances of Donald Trump and his consigliere Michael Cohn. The more we learn about Cohn’s “pay to play” scheme, and the two pending lawsuits challenging Trump’s “pay tp play” scheme under the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the more this feckless GOP-controlled Congress has an obligation to investigate Trump’s tax records and financial dealings as president to “drain the swamp”: this is the most corrupt administration in recent American history.

Steve Benen has a decent short summary, The closer one looks at Trump’s finances, the louder the questions become:

Last summer, Donald Trump sat down with the New York Times, which asked whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller will have crossed “a red line” if the investigation into the Russia scandal extends to include examinations of the resident’s finances. “I would say yeah. I would say yes,” he replied, adding, “I think that’s a violation.”

Naturally, this generated no shortage of speculation as to why Trump is so concerned about scrutiny of his finances. For that matter, there’s no reason to separate questions about the president’s finances with the Russia scandal – because as Rachel Maddow has explained on her show more than once, there’s an amazing number of people from Russia who’ve purchased Trump properties over the years. (My personal favorite is the story of Dmitry Rybolovlev, the fertilizer king, who purchased a derelict Florida estate from the future president at an extreme markup.)

Continue reading

Follow the money: Russian money flowed into Michael Cohen’s business, but to whom did it flow, and for what purpose?

Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti is not saying how he came into possession of financial records of Michael Cohen, but at some point he may be required to disclose this to the court.

On Tuesday, Avenatti posted online a “Project Sunlight” executive summary (.pdf) for reporters to review. Avenatti examines Essential Consultants LLC, a Delaware company, on Oct. 17, 2016, just a few weeks before Election Day. The company’s banking records are from the First Republic Bank branch (“First Republic”) located in Manhattan, New York City, New York.

Avenatti alleges that representations made to the bank to open the account “were false when made and continued to be false at all material times based on the activity occurring in the account. This likely constitutes bank fraud.”

The media narrative has been that Essential Consultants LLC was used as a cut out for the payment of the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, which it was.

But Michael Cohen was also using his company for a “pay to play” scheme to sell his access to Donald Trump as his personal attorney.

Avenatti alleges that “From October 2016 through January 2018, Mr. Cohen used his First Republic account to engage in suspicious financial transactions totaling $4,425,033.46.” Among these transactions include:

  • Chief among these suspicious financial transactions are approximately $500,000 in payments received from Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian Oligarch with an estimated net worth of nearly $13 Billion. Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (“Columbus”) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.
  • Columbus Nova is a private equity firm founded in 2000 with over $2 billion in assets. Mr. Intrater is the CEO of Columbus Nova. Columbus Nova is the U.S. investment vehicle for Renova Group, a multi-national company controlled by Mr. Vekselberg. Renova group holds investments in various interests, including mining, oil, and telecommunications .
  • Also included in these suspicious financial transactions are four payments in late 2017 and early 2018 totaling $399,920 made by global pharmaceutical giant Novartis directly to Essential in four separate transactions of $99,980 each (just below $100,000).
  • In addition, Essential received $200,000 in four separate payments of $50,000 in late 2017 and early 2018 from AT&T.
  • Essential also received a $150,000 payment in November 2017 from Korea Aerospace Industries LTD.

There are a several other financial transactions highlighted in Avenatti’s executive summary.

Continue reading

Rudy Giuliani trots out yet another Trump story in signal to Michael Cohen to not flip

Back in early April, in his first public statement about the “hush money” his personal lawyer Michael Cohen paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, Donald Trump denied having any knowledge of the matter. Trump: I don’t know anything about the $130,000 my lawyer paid Stormy Daniels:

Trump’s denial was the first time he’s made a public statement about the money given to Daniels ahead of the 2016 election to keep her silent about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Trump replied “no” when asked if he had had knowledge about the payment to Daniels. A reporter then asked if he knew why Cohen made the payment.

“You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael Cohen is my attorney,” Trump said, according to the pool report. “You’ll have to ask Michael.”

Trump also denied knowing where the money to pay Daniels came from and ignored another question on whether he had ever set up a fund that Cohen could use to make such a payment.

Last week Trump called into his team of advisors on Fox & Friends on Trump TV, and in a bizarre half-hour rant, Trump says for first time that Cohen represented him in Stormy Daniels case:

[I]n an interview with Fox News on Thursday morning, Trump appeared to reveal that he had knowledge of Cohen’s payment to Daniels.

“Michael represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me,” Trump said. “And from what I’ve seen, he did absolutely nothing wrong. There were no campaign funds going into this.”

And asked how much of his legal work Cohen is responsible for, Trump said: “As a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny fraction.”

Continue reading

Michael Cohen’s deep ties to the Russian mafia

If you only get your news from network/cable television news, the media narrative in the Michael Cohen case is that the Special Counsel’s investigation came across some information in its Russia investigation about Cohen’s handling of nondisclosure agreements with Donald Trump’s sexcapades that Robert Mueller decided was outside the scope of his investigation, so it was referred to the U.S. Attorney office for the Southern District of New York.

But then there was this allegation about taxi medallions, and the television news media was all “what’s up with that?” Maybe they should, oh I don’t know, do some reporting and find out.

It turns out that the current media narrative is incorrect. Michael Cohen has deep ties to the Russian and Ukrainian mafia in New York, and the taxi medallions involve a lot of mob money which is part of Cohen’s personal fortune. The Cohen case is about Russian influence, not just Donald Trump’s sexcapades.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a hint of what the Cohen case is about. Good Grief. Cohen’s World Gets Mobbier The Closer I Look:

In today’s podcast, we look into the background of Michael Cohen. TPM first reported last year that Cohen was actually a childhood friend of Felix Sater, whose father was himself a reputed capo in the Mogilevich organized crime syndicate, said to be Russia’s largest and most dangerous. Filling out this picture of how Cohen fell into this milieu we’ve always been focused on the fact that Cohen’s uncle, Morton Levine, owned and ran a Brooklyn social club, El Caribe, which was a well-known meeting spot for members of Italian and Russian organized crime families in the 1970s and 1980s. (Levine, a medical doctor has never been charged with a crime.) But now it turns out there’s a bit more to this story.

Continue reading

Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen is getting a legal education

Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael D. Cohen is like Thomas “Tom” Hagen, the consigliere to the Corleone family in The Godfather.

A couple of weeks ago, McClatchy News reported Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries;

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The New York Times reported on March 15 that Mueller had subpoenaed unspecified records from the Trump Organization. Days before that, the Washington Post reported that Mueller’s team was looking into a Moscow hotel deal for which Cohen brought to Donald Trump a letter of intent from a Moscow developer during the 2016 presidential campaign.

They must have obtained something of evidentiary value because a week ago Monday the F.B.I. Raided the Office of Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen: “The F.B.I. raided the Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room [and home] of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, on Monday morning, seizing business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to a pornographic film actress.”

Continue reading

Follow the money: FBI raids the office of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen (Updated)

Last week Donald Trump threw his personal attorney and consigliere (fixer) Michael Cohen under the bus for the Stormy Daniels affair. Trump says he didn’t know his attorney paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels.

Also last week we learned that Michael Cohen was under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mueller probe tracking down Trump business partners, with Cohen a focus of queries:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators this week questioned an associate of the Trump Organization who was involved in overseas deals with President Donald Trump’s company in recent years.

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump’s effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings.

Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Michael D. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee. Among other things, Cohen was involved in business deals secured or sought by the Trump Organization in Georgia, Kazakhstan and Russia.

The move to question business associates of the president adds a significant new element to the Mueller investigation, which began by probing whether the Trump campaign and Russia colluded in an effort to get Trump elected but has branched far beyond that.

Continue reading