The New York Times reports President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen leveraged his access to the president as he solicited donations to a shell company used to pay hush money to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who says she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Cohen used the promise of White House access as he brought in a total of $4.4 million in payments to his shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, from clients including AT&T, Korea Aerospace Industries and a company controlled by a Russian billionaire. Cohen also received $1.2 million from the drug maker Novartis for “consulting” services.
An unnamed Novartis employee told the medical news site Stat, “We were trying to find an inroad into the administration. Cohen promised access to not just Trump, but also the circle around him. It was almost as if we were hiring him as a lobbyist.” Novartis acknowledged Wednesday that company officials were questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team about the payments.
Meanwhile, Michael Cohen refused to answer reporters’ questions except to say that the document revealed by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, was “inaccurate.”
Reporter: “Any response to Avenatti?”
Michael Cohen: “His document is inaccurate.”
At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to say whether President Trump knew about Cohen’s solicitations.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “As you know, due to the complications of the different components of this investigation, I would refer you to the president’s outside special—or outside counsel to address those concerns.”
John Roberts: But is the president concerned that major corporations were giving money to somebody very close to him at a time when they had business before the federal government?
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “I haven’t heard the president express any specific concerns about that.”
Speaking to Bloomberg News, Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said, “The president was unaware of this. The president is not involved in any respect.”