The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Michael Cohen advertised himself as “the President’s lawyer” to potential corporate clients, seemingly in an attempt to sell influence — or at least, the appearance of influence — with the White House.
“I have the best relationship with the President on the outside, and you need to hire me,” Cohen told one unnamed client, an unnamed person familiar with the approach told the Journal.
And after a declined overture to Uber, according to an unnamed person “close to the company,” Cohen revised his pitch: He was “the President’s lawyer,” he reminded them. The Journal’s source said Uber was “bemused.”
The report sheds some more light on Cohen’s attempts at winning over corporate dollars with his proximity to power following the election.
Various companies, from drugmaker Novartis to AT&T to Korea Aerospace Industries, have admitted to hiring Cohen for large sums. And many have said it was a mistake, after news of their arrangements with the President’s fixer became public.
An unnamed source at Novartis told Stat News last week that Cohen, who has no experience in health care policy, promised the company “access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.”
And, as in the Journal’s report, an unnamed source familiar with Cohen’s pitch to companies told CNN last week that he told potential clients to “fire them all,” referring to a company’s current advisers.
“I’m the guy you should hire. I’m closest to the President. I’m his personal lawyer,” the source, an unnamed GOP strategist, told CNN.
The payments were first made public by adult film star Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti. Daniels is suing Cohen separately over a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to her in October 2016. The corporate payments to Cohen, according to an unsourced document released by Avenatti, were made to the same account Cohen used to pay Daniels.
Investigators raided Cohen’s home, office and hotel room in April as part of a months-long criminal probe which encompasses, in part, the payment to Daniels.
Several companies that had business relationships with Cohen, including the American affiliate of a Russian investment firm, have been questioned by Mueller’s team, according to various reports or their own admissions.