A Delaware entity set up by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen seems to have become a key piece of the puzzle in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election.
This was revealed and publicized in a special report written by Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld, and Nicole Hong, published in the Wall Street Journal.
Called Essential Consultants LLC, Cohen’s firm was, according to the WSJ, set up to pay former adult movie actress Stephanie Clifford, professionally known as Stormy Daniels. The company has become the central subject of an investigation led by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office. The office is investigating whether Mr. Cohen committed money laundering, federal bank fraud, and other crimes.
Perhaps more importantly, Essential Consultants LLC seems to be evolving into a central piece of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into foreign election interference. Robert Mueller requested information from the telecommunications company AT&T Inc. and from Novartis AG, a pharmaceutical company, last year. Both companies made payments to Cohen’s Essential Consultants in exchange for legal advice.
Involved with Essential Consultants is a company founded by Russian oligarch Viktor F. Vekselberg. Called Columbus Nova, Vekselberg’s firm paid $500,000 to Cohen’s Delaware entity, which, as it had turned out, was used for hush money payments, including the payment made to Stormy Daniels.
Contradicting a previous assertion that he was unaware of the payment, President Donald Trump admitted that he had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush payment, in a series of carefully-worded tweets.
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
...very common among celebrities and people of wealth. In this case it is in full force and effect and will be used in Arbitration for damages against Ms. Clifford (Daniels). The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair,......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
...despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair. Prior to its violation by Ms. Clifford and her attorney, this was a private agreement. Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll in this transaction.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2018
Beyond paying Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen’s firm was used for other purposes. As CBS News reported, former the adult film actress’s attorney Michael Avenatti released a document, detailing bank transactions involving Essential Consultants.
The alleged hush payment to Stormy Daniels was among the first transactions, but according to the Wall Street Journal, at least $2 million has passed through Essential Consultants since Mr. Cohen opened it. The same outlet noted he could be part of the reason why Cohen’s firm could become crucial in determining whether money laundering occurred.
Initially, Michael Cohen meant to pay Stephanie Clifford, professionally known as Stormy Daniels, through another Delaware entity – Resolution Consultants LLC. Trump’s personal lawyer initially planned to make a $130,000 payment through this firm.
However, Mr. Cohen never used Resolution Consultants. Instead, he created Essential Consultants within two minutes of closing Resolution Consultants, state records show. Two days after creating the new LLC, Cohen wired $130,000 to the adult film actress’s personal lawyer, and she signed a nondisclosure agreement the following day.
The reported Stormy Daniels hush payment was the first of many involving the LLC. In early 2017, telecommunications giant AT&T wired $600,000 to Cohen’s firm. Columbus Nova, Russian oligarch Viktor F. Vekselberg’s firm, began its payments to Essential around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration, with the payments ending in August 2017.
Drugmaker Novartis signed a one-year agreement with Essential Consultants in February 2017, paying Mr. Cohen $1.2 million total. In November 2017, Essential Consultants received a $150,000 payment from Korea Aerospace Industries LTD.
By the end of 2017, Elliott Broidy, a venture capitalist and major Republican fundraiser, agreed to pay $1.6 million to Shera Bechard, a former Playboy model who alleged Mr. Broidy had impregnated her. Brody wired $250,000 total to Essential Consultants.