The Slatest

Mueller Is Looking Into Ford’s Rejection of Michael Cohen’s Consulting Services

Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, exits the Loews Regency Hotel, May 11, 2018 in New York City.
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, exits the Loews Regency Hotel, May 11, 2018 in New York City.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Ford apparently had no problem saying no to Michael Cohen. An executive with the auto giant rejected an eyebrow-raising offer of consulting services from Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, in January 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller found out about the offer and now wants more details, reports the Wall Street Journal. Mueller has requested numerous documents from Ford, including emails, that detail what exactly Cohen’s offer entailed.

Mueller has already interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli, who didn’t give many details beyond saying that he declined Cohen’s offer. The Detroit Free Press confirmed that Cohen offered Ford his consulting services. Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, also confirmed the news.

“I can confirm that Mr. Cohen solicited Ford Motor Company,” Avenatti said. “It was in late 2016 into ’17. On multiple occasions. There was no policy. He was trying to sell access to the president. My understanding is that it was by phone and electronic communication.”

The interest from Mueller’s office on the offer comes after confirmation that AT&T, pharmaceutical company Novartis, and an investment firm tied to a Russian oligarch all paid Cohen for consulting services. They made the payments through Essential Consultants, which was the company that had been set up shortly after the presidential election to pay off Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Both AT&T and Novartis have said they paid Cohen to help them understand Trump, although it doesn’t seem they got much bang for their buck and they both regret it. AT&T fired its top lobbyist Friday and the company’s CEO said it was a “big mistake” to hire Cohen. “To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate,” CEO Randall Stephenson said in a memo. “But the fact is our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment.” The CEO of Novartis also apologized to employees for the payments to Cohen. “We made a mistake in entering into this engagement and, as a consequence, are being criticized by a world that expects more from us,” wrote Vasant Narasimhan, the company’s chief executive.

Novartis has said the contract with Cohen was pretty much useless as he was “unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated.” But the company kept paying Cohen because it couldn’t get out of the contract. It doesn’t seem many will be satisfied with the explanations and apologies though. Lawmakers are also trying to dig into what kind of consulting services Cohen was offering and what the firms were trying to get out of their contracts with Trump’s personal attorney. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has sent a letter to Novartis asking for details on the $1.2 million contract. “This arrangement raises serious concerns about the length Novartis was willing to go in order to curry favor with this Administration, and perhaps more troublingly, what it expected or was promised in return,” notes the letter.