May 9, 2018

Short version: Michael Cohen really is the bagman we always thought he was -- and it likely leads back to the White House. Straight cash payments from companies with issues before the government? Yeah, we call that "graft." Josh Marshall has the most cautious take on Michael Avenatti's shocking revelations last night

The most important ones are that a Russian oligarch paid more than $500,000 into the shell company that Cohen earlier used to make his payment to Stormy Daniels. The money is nominally from the US affiliate of Viktor Vekselberg’s holding company. But this is a direct connection. AT&T made payments totaling $200,000. Novartis, the drug manufacturer, chipped in almost $400,000. In what still must be considered preliminary reporting, The New York Times now says that transactions totaling at least $4.4 million flowed into “Essential Consultants LLC”, the shell company Cohen used as the vehicle to pay Stormy Daniels and then later used to arrange another hush agreement at least nominally for billionaire Elliott Broidy, a then-RNC deputy finance chair who is tied up in the Trump/Russia probe through fixer George Nader. The payments all end in January 2018.* That’s when the name “Essential Consultants LLC” was first published by The Wall Street Journal as part of the Stormy Daniels’ story.

In other words, just through this single shell company Cohen was receiving major payments from a Russian oligarch and additional moneys from various Fortune 500 companies looking for access to President Trump. On the US corporate side these are classic off-the-books pay-for-play payments to what appears to have been a slush fund. If you’ve spent any time covering political scandals you can’t look even at these initial details and not think this is the kind of story that sends a bunch of people to prison.

*C&L Editor's note: When net neutrality rules were repealed.

Avenatti released the information on Twitter last night and has been on every TV network since:

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