By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: April 17, 2018
It’s clear from the prosecutors’ filings in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that they believe President Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, has lied to them and is concealing information from them.
Last Friday evening, McClatchy newspapers dropped a bombshell that provided some insight into what some of those black redacted passages in the government’s court filings in the Cohen case might refer to. McClatchy reporters Peter Stone and Greg Gordon write that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “has evidence” that Cohen did, in fact, make a “late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Cohen has publicly denied any such trip and produced his passport to back up his story. The McClatchy article says “Cohen entered the Czech Republic through Germany, apparently during August or early September of 2016… He wouldn’t have needed a passport for such a trip, because both countries are in the so-called Schengen Area in which 26 nations operate with open borders.”
The allegation that Cohen had traveled to Prague and met with a powerful Russian oligarch close to Putin first appeared in the dossier prepared by former MI6 agent, Christopher Steele, as part of his work for Trump’s political opponents, one of which was the Hillary Clinton campaign. Steele eventually turned the dossier over to the FBI. Buzzfeed published the dossier in January 2017.
The McClatchy reporters write that they gave both Cohen and his lawyer an opportunity to comment for their story, but neither responded to the requests. If no such meeting in Prague occurred, why not say so as Cohen had been doing for months? The reporters cite two unnamed sources for their information and note further that Cohen has failed to provide investigators with hard documentation for his whereabouts at the time of the alleged Prague meeting. The reporters also note that “Cohen has publicly acknowledged making three trips to Europe that year – to Italy in July, England in early October and a third after Trump’s November election.” That’s a lot of European travel when your major client is in the contest of his life – running in a close campaign to be President of the United States.
The government’s court filing in the Cohen case indicates that he “is being investigated for criminal conduct that largely centers on his personal business dealings.” Government prosecutors told the court that they have good reason to believe that Cohen is not engaged in “any significant practice of law.”
As for Cohen’s “business dealings,” one such deal is described as follows in the government’s court papers:
“…on or about March 1, 2017, Cohen—through his wholly-owned entity, Michael D. Cohen & Associates P.C.—entered into a ‘Strategic Alliance Agreement’ with the law firm [Squire Patton Boggs]. Among other things, the Agreement provided that Cohen would receive a $500,000 annual ‘strategic alliance Fee’ from the law firm. Under certain circumstances, Cohen would also receive a percentage of the fees charged by the law firm for clients introduced to the law firm by Cohen.”
Squire Patton Boggs now says that its relationship with Cohen has concluded.
Let that sink in for a moment. You are the personal attorney for the President of the United States – a man who is filling cabinet posts with poorly vetted and/or grossly unqualified candidates. And you are receiving $500,000 from a law firm that is also a major corporate lobbyist. And you are now a target of a Federal criminal investigation for your “personal business dealings.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Squire Patton Boggs (the law firm where Cohen’s office was raided by the FBI last week) generated over $98 million in lobby fees from 2014 through 2017. (That’s separate from the tally for legal fees charged by its 1500 lawyers.) Two clients who paid Squire Patton Boggs a total of over $1 million in just 2017 were involved in U.S. steel production.
California Steel Industries paid Squire Patton Boggs $450,000 in 2017 while NLMK Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of a Russian-based global steel producer, paid the firm $630,000 in 2017 according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Trump gave U.S. steel producers a big gift in early March by imposing tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports from most foreign countries.
The McClatchy report notes that Cohen is a “millionaire with his own New York real estate holdings” and “has ties to Ukrainian ethanol company.”
It was revealed in court proceedings yesterday that Fox talk show host, Sean Hannity, has been Cohen’s secret client while Hannity was blasting on air the Russia investigation and FBI raid on Cohen. Hannity downplayed the formality of his relationship with Cohen on his show yesterday.
Cohen has now become a central part of the serial scandals surrounding Donald Trump. Cohen admitted to paying $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her allegation of an affair with Donald Trump from becoming public in the days before the 2016 Presidential election. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Cohen had also facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who said she had become pregnant by Elliott Broidy, a major Republican fundraiser for Trump and the Republican National Committee. CNN reported that the payment was to be paid quarterly over a period of two years, beginning in December 2017. Broidy has admitted retaining Cohen for the transaction.