Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen has mostly been in the news lately for arranging, and possibly personally funding, a $130,000 payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels which reportedly bought her silence about a sexy sex affair she once claimed to have conducted with Trump. (Cohen reportedly told friends that initial accounts of his involvement in the situation were “bullshit” and “fake news,” but later admitted publicly that he’d in fact set the payment up.) Two new stories have reminded us that Cohen is also an important figure in the Robert Mueller Trump-Russia investigation:
• The Daily Beast reports that (presumably Republican) members of the House Intelligence Committee surreptitiously informed Cohen that a committee witness had given testimony about the infamous “Steele dossier” that Cohen might be interested in. Cohen is suing BuzzFeed for having published the dossier, which includes an allegation (which he denies, hence the lawsuit) that he met with Russian operatives in Prague in 2016. (The witness, through his lawyer, reportedly declined to share the relevant information with Cohen.) The Beast’s report adds to a growing pile of evidence that the House Intelligence Committee is basically a subsidiary of the White House. (The Republican member leading the investigation, for the record, denies that any information was leaked.)
• The Washington Post reports that Mueller’s investigators have been seeking information about two endeavors that Cohen was involved in: A late-2015 effort to launch the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow and an early-2017 effort to pass a Russia-friendly foreign policy proposal involving Ukraine to then-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The details of both of those situations are somewhat convoluted, but they involve both Cohen and an individual named Felix Sater. Sater is a Russia-born convicted felon with oligarch/mob connections who worked closely with the Trump Organization on several real estate projects in the aughts. There’s been a lot of informed speculation that Mueller is interested in whether Trump helped wealthy aughts-era Russians launder dirty money into the American financial system by buying apartments from him, the idea being that whatever knowledge Russian intelligence agencies had about any such activities would have constituted leverage on Trump. Given that Cohen is the Trump Organization’s top lawyer and (as we’ve seen) a trusted Trump bagman, it makes sense that Mueller would be interested in what he knows about the subject. (An attorney representing Cohen called the Post’s report of Mueller’s interest in Cohen’s activities “unsourced innuendo.”)
The other fun thing about Cohen is that, like just about everyone else involved with Trump, he’s an aggro loose-cannon jerk with a tenuous grasp on reality, having told the Daily Beast the following when it reported that Trump’s ex-wife Ivana said during a 1990s deposition that Trump once raped her:
By the very definition, you can’t rape your spouse. It is true. You cannot rape your spouse. And there’s very clear case law.
This, of course, is not true. (For the record, Ivana now says she only used the word during divorce proceedings to suggest she felt “violated,” not raped in a criminal sense.) Continued Cohen:
I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet.
Scary! Cohen also once wrote a letter to the Onion demanding that it take down a piece “written” by Donald Trump called “When You’re Feeling Low, Just Remember That I’ll Be Dead in About 15 or 20 Years.” (They didn’t.)