Michael Cohen’s lawyers have now responded to Michael Avenatti’s information in a scathing filing to Judge Kimba Wood. It’s mainly pounding the table. But they do seem to have found some errors. So let’s go through the details.
By our initial read, all of the claims that anyone is talking about are accurate and Cohen’s lawyers now concede as much. The payments from AT&T, Novartis, Columbus Nova, Korea Aerospace and so forth – those are all real. But in the last of the seven pages of the document Avenatti posted yesterday on Twitter, he lists transactions from another account at Standard Chartered Bank. There were a number of transactions listed on this account. But it was hard to know what to make of them. Most were for a few hundred dollars tied to various foreign banks and entities. So for instance, there was a wire from a Kenyan bank for $980 that was apparently tied to an Israeli bank. Cohen’s lawyers say these are transactions for different Michael Cohen’s – one Michael Cohen from Israel and another from Canada. They press this point so hard I assume they are correct that these are other people.
Needless to say, Cohen’s lawyers really go to town on these apparent errors. But they all come from one bank account discussed on the final page that no one really paid any attention to.
They concede that Columbus Nova, the investment fund tied to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg paid Cohen $500,000. But they dispute the idea that the company really has anything to do with Vekselberg. They repeat the company’s claim that it is “solely owned and controlled by Americans.” This is a technical distinction which we discussed yesterday. It’s not different from what’s already known. It is technically owned and operated by Americans. But for the reasons we discussed yesterday, by any real world definition it seems to be the creature of Viktor Vekselberg.
Where they really go to town is on how Avenatti gained access to this material. They are well within their rights to do so. As we noted yesterday, the document appears to take its information from so-called bank Suspicious Activity Reports. Those are highly, highly confidential and leaking them is a big no-no. As I discussed yesterday, as long as a journalist is not party to any bad acts that produce a leak, he or she is in the clear in most cases. But lawyer’s have an entirely different set of obligations. So I’m not sure what responsibility Avenatti has to the court on this front.
In any case, the upshot is Cohen’s lawyers throw everything they can at Avenatti. But they do not dispute any of the claims that made news yesterday evening.