The mainstream media is reporting that this story comes from “sources” in the Ukrainian government. Whether you can believe that or not is up to you. Michael Cohen obviously denies everything. But according to an unnamed “high ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer”, Cohen was responsible for arranging the meeting between Trump and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko last June.
Ukraine’s registered lobbyists, and even their embassy staff in DC, apparently couldn’t get the White House to bite on a real meeting with Poroshenko. The Trump administration only wanted to offer a brief photo-op, and Poroshenko was looking for something that he could portray to his own people as “diplomatic talks” of some kind.
So Poroshenko asked an aide to get him a back channel to Trump. That aide asked a loyal member of Ukraine’s parliament to help. That parliament-member then went through his own contacts from a Jewish charity in New York called “Chabad”, who connected him, eventually, to ol’ Michael Cohen.
Cohen was allegedly paid $400,000 to get Poroshenko into the Oval Office. There’s no evidence that Donald Trump ever knew about the payment.
According to reports, there’s a second source in Kiev who has given the same details to reporters, except they believe the total earned by Michael Cohen was actually $600,000. Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti (himself under a fair bit of financial scrutiny at the moment), has also claimed that Cohen received payments from “Ukrainian interests”.
Avenatti says there are Suspicious Activity Reports, sent by Cohen’s bank to the US Treasury, which show he received money from the Ukrainians. Though, if such reports do exist, it remains to be seen whether they show that Cohen got paid for this specific incident or something else entirely.
Cohen is obviously claiming it’s all baloney. And the two Ukrainians who are supposed to have opened the backchannel through Cohen also have denied the story.
Another denial has also been issued by Felix Sater, a convicted Russian mob boss (turned FBI informer) and a former Trump business partner. (He helped The Donald build the Trump SoHo in 2006, along with a few other Trump real estate projects.) Sater, born Felix Mikhailovich Sheferovsky, was also allegedly part of this scheme with Cohen. Of course, his lawyer has denied it all.
Unsurprisingly, the Ukrainian president, Poroshenko, also claims the whole story is a slanderous lie. It was reported pretty widely last June that Poroshenko had described his visit with trump as a substantial meeting, but the White House schedule said that the meeting would instead be a “drop in” by Poroshenko between scheduled White House staff meetings.
So it would seem that, if the Ukrainians did pay Michael Cohen for a longer meeting with Trump, they didn’t pay enough. Either that, or Cohen never really had any authority to rearrange the president’s schedule. But the more crucial question is, if Cohen did establish a backchannel with the Ukrainians, what was conveyed to them before and after Poroshenko’s visit?
The media are speculating (wildly and without any evidence, as per the norm) that the point of the backchannel may not have been the meeting. Rather, the Ukrainians may have wanted to get back into Donald Trump’s good graces, and needed a way to explain it to him and his advisors.
Several “sources” in “Ukraine” claim that, during the 2016 election, Petro Poroshenko authorized the leak of the document that showed Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was supposedly in bed with the Russians. He allegedly did this because he was sure that Killary would win the election, and he wanted to curry favor with her.
Well, that was a big mistake. Huge. And it’s telling that only a week after Poroshenko met with The Donald, the Ukrainians more or less dropped their own investigation into Manafort. (He had allegedly been taking millions of dollars from Russian sources while working for pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist groups. Those groups, and others like them, have given the Ukrainian government a lot of trouble.)
The mainstream media is claiming that the end of the Ukrainian corruption investigation into Manafort was a favor from Poroshenko to Trump. If the Ukrainians stopped digging into Manafort’s activities, it would give Trump fewer sources of controversy from that corner.
But that’s a lame argument. US investigators have been digging into Manafort’s activities on their own end since last year. Any skeletons in his closet were going to come out whether the Ukrainians found them or not. And Manafort was almost certainly no longer a security threat to the Ukrainian government.
Plus, Manafort is an American. The Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Bureau, who uncovered his alleged payments from the Russians, are only authorized to investigate Ukrainians. So the investigation into his ties was moved from there to the general Ukrainian prosecutor’s office, where it has more or less gone nowhere.
But the media will make a circus out of all of this, and these new, unproven allegations of a Michael Cohen backchannel, nevertheless. It remains to be seen how everything will shake out, and whether anybody will come forward with any real evidence rather than “allegations” based on hearsay and “highly-placed sources”.
At this point we can’t be sure what will happen next. But, we can be sure that, whatever it is, the mainstream media will somehow make it into an attack on Trump.