This morning we heard news that investigative committees in the House and Senate have made broad document requests to Michael Cohen, longtime Trump Organization lawyer and Trump operative. These are similar or the same as those which have been issued to others often mentioned in the Russia probe. But Cohen declined the requests. (He can do that at this point since they are requests, not subpoenas.) I’ve done a lot of research and reporting on Cohen and plan to have our expanding team do quite a lot more.
Let me share a few thoughts.
This is a very bad sign for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen. In simple terms, whatever happened during the 2016 campaign, if I wanted to understand Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union and money from those countries and emigres from those countries, there’s no single person I’d want to look at more closely than Michael Cohen.
This may all sound very odd since for those who got to know Cohen during the campaign he comes off as nothing more than Trump’s bully lawyer who makes legal threats and mouths off on TV. He is a much, much more significant player.
Cohen is referred to as Trump’s personal lawyer. Not likely. President Trump has other lawyers who sue people on his behalf, defend him in lawsuits and criminal matters. From everything I’ve been able to tell, Cohen fills a business role for Trump as well as being his public threatener. Cohen has multiple personal and business relationships with people from Russia, Ukraine and emigres from those countries. He is a major real estate player in his own right, as well as working on numerous deals within the Trump Organization. Just back in 2015 Cohen bought a $58 million apartment building on New York’s Upper East Side. $58 million. That’s a lot of money. He appears to have made his original money in the New York City taxi business and remains heavily involved in it. That is a rough and unlovely business. He also has or had businesses in Ukraine. There was also the casino boat business he launched with other Russian/Ukrainian emigres.
Here’s one look at Cohen’s background in the Trump world which I wrote on March 1. More recently Cohen was the conduit that Felix Sater and that Ukrainian parliamentarian chose for their peace plan to settle matters between Russia and Ukraine and end sanctions. Cohen was supposed to deliver the paper dossier to Michael Flynn. He said he did deliver it to Flynn. Then he denied delivering it to him. What stuff gets hand delivered these days in paper copies? This was shortly before Flynn was fired. Cohen was also reportedly in touch with the same Ukrainian parliamentarian discussing peace overtures and sanctions relief during the campaign, going back to the first half of 2016. Again, that’s very interesting and something that seems considerably more interesting today than it did a few months ago when we first learned about it.
How did Cohen first come to Donald Trump’s attention and join the Trump Organization just over a decade ago? That’s another interesting story. It was apparently his ability to serve as a conduit for money emigres from the former Soviet Union were using to buy apartment units at Trump branded luxury developments. That was I believe what brought Cohen into the Organization.
Cohen is a much bigger deal in this whole story than I think is broadly realized. I’m not surprised the investigative committees are interested in him. Federal investigators are too.