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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There are a handful of articles out in the last 48 hours suggesting Michael Cohen is going to make a deal with federal prosecutors and become a cooperating witness against his boss, Donald Trump. Trump’s own former lawyer and Cohen’s predecessor, Jay Goldberg, warned Trump in a phone call that he thought Cohen was likely to turn on him and might even wear a wire to get evidence against him.

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Yesterday we noted that Michael Cohen grew up around the Brooklyn social club that served as the headquarters of the bosses of the Russian mob from the 1970s to the 1990s. Today we discussed the role of Cohen’s father-in-law Fima Shusterman, an immigrant from Ukraine. Shusterman had been in the taxi business for decades before Cohen got into the business and it was with loans and medallions from Shusterman that Cohen got his start. According to a former federal investigator who spoke to Seth Hettena, Cohen “was given the job with the Trump Org as a favor to Shusterman.”

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Yesterday afternoon I had one of those epiphanies about a story I usually have no more than once every few years. It was partly triggered by details I put in this post about Michael Cohen. But it wasn’t about that alone. It was the sum of a dozen developments since the raid on Cohen’s homes and office last Monday. Starting over a year ago we focused our resources tightly on Cohen, Sater and an assortment of lesser capos and goodfellas in the Trump syndicate.

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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.

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Though most information remains tied up with prosecutors in New York and outside of public view, we are beginning to get some hints about which of Michael Cohen’s businesses are under federal scrutiny. We’ve discussed Cohen’s involvement in the taxi business at great length. This new thread of that story turns on the taxi business in Chicago. Let me briefly describe what we know about this new thread of the story and why prosecutors want more details.

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Today’s Episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is a bit different. Want to know how Donald Trump got this deep in with Michael Cohen? Where Cohen came from? We pack the whole story into a single episode from the early days at the mob social club with Felix and the crew (a la Spider and Henry Hill) to the Ukraine-money-backed taxi and casino cruise businesses, his Ukraine based operations, the big prize tens of millions dollar investments in New York City real estate. Trump brought Cohen in to the Trump Organization because he was a conduit for Russian and Ukrainian money. In the last ten years Cohen has touched virtually every part of the Russia story and Trump’s vast and opaque business dealings around the country and the world. Trump is worried because he should be worried. In this episode we explain why. I’m joined by my co-host David Taintor and TPM Reporter Allegra Kirkland who covers the Cohen beat and was in the court room downtown Friday and yesterday. Listen on iTunes or Google Play or use our Podcast RSS feed. If you’re on iTunes or Google Play please subscribe. That helps us build audience. We hope you enjoy.

Let me share a few points about Sean Hannity being a client of Michael Cohen. We have the details here. But here are some things to consider. Cohen (or rather Cohen’s lawyer on his behalf) said in court that Hannity was his client. This was followed by Hannity making a number of public statements severely limiting the sense in which he might be Cohen’s client while also affirming that he is, in fact, Cohen’s client. You can’t have it both ways. And yet it appears very important to Hannity to do so.

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One sub-thread to the Cohen investigation is that the US Attorney in Manhattan (SDNY) recused himself from involvement in the case. It’s been assumed that that was because of his ties to Trump. Trump appointed him (he hasn’t actually been confirmed yet or technically even nominated). He made campaign contributions to candidate Trump and even did some work on the transition. But most notably he sat for a personal interview with the President while he was being considered for the post. That is entirely irregular, though there’s no particular rule against it. It’s been widely assumed that some combination of those factors triggered Berman’s recusal. But this new New York Times piece suggests that’s not the case.

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