Michael Cohen Was Selling More Than Access

Earlier this week, we learned that Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen had received large sums of money from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, AT&T, the drug manufacturer Novartis, and others, ostensibly in exchange for his "lobbying" services.

This is obviously complete garbage — and new reporting by MJ Lee, Javier De Diego, Sarah Westwood, Marshall Cohen, Gloria Borger, Sara Murray, and Dana Bash at CNN highlights just how absurd it is:
On November 8, 2016, Cohen's stock suddenly soared: He was now the personal attorney to the President-elect of the United States, with unique understanding of a man that everyone was scrambling to get access to.

Cohen quickly got to work. According to multiple people familiar with Cohen's conduct following the election, he aggressively pitched himself to potential clients, reminding them of his proximity to the most powerful man in the world. Those efforts landed Cohen lucrative consulting deals. New reporting this week revealed that in the months following the 2016 election, Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from powerful entities based in and outside of the United States.

"I don't know who's been representing you, but you should fire them all. I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the President. I'm his personal lawyer," was how one GOP strategist described Cohen's sales pitch.

One company that Cohen immediately sought out was pharmaceutical giant Novartis. "He was shopping himself around," a source familiar told CNN. Cohen would ultimately land a one-year contract with the firm by promising access to the White House on health care policy.

But that deal quickly soured. According to the source, company officials had one meeting with Cohen in March 2017 and decided that he would not be able to provide the access they desired. There would be no other meetings with Cohen, but Novartis chose to pay out the entirety of Cohen's contract anyway — $100,000 per month, for a total of $1.2 million.
There is much more at the link.

This cover story, that Cohen was just an ambitious conman who leveraged his relationship with the president to personally enrich himself, really starts to fall apart upon closer scrutiny.

If access were all he was selling, and reportedly couldn't deliver, why would Novartis continue to pay him $100,000 monthly for an entire year? Especially since they were only paying their actual lobbying firms $12,000 monthly at the time.

And even if Cohen "aggressively pitched himself" to companies like Novartis, how did they vet him? If his only value was as Trump's personal attorney, how and with whom did they confirm that before writing enormous checks? Who vouched for him?

There's something very strange here, beyond the appearance of dirty politics as usual taken to the extreme.

This story isn't just not normal; it's not believable.

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