Michael Avenatti's Claims on Cohen Payments Are Mundane Drenched in Conspiratorial Nonsense

Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, left, watches as Michael Cohen, center, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, leaves federal court in New York, Thursday, April 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

 

It’s been a busy 24 hour news cycle but one story is currently blowing up.

It’s not the downfall of Don Blankenship, who was propped up as the front-runner despite placing a distant third because the media desperately wanted another Roy Moore situation. It’s not even this morning’s major announcement that three prisoners are on their way home from North Korea.

No, it’s yet another Michael Avenatti “bombshell” troll the media are going to predictably lap up into a frenzy of conspiratorial heaving.

The New York Times gives more details…

A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews…

…Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg…

…The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of documents and interviews shed additional light on Mr. Cohen’s dealings with the company connected to Mr. Vekselberg, who was stopped and questioned at an airport earlier this year by investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election…

Other companies that paid Michael Cohen for consulting include AT&T and Korea Aerospace Industries. It should also be noted that Columbus Nova, despite some of the headlines you may be seeing, is not a Russia firm run by Putin. It’s an American firm who simply has a Russian client. In case you weren’t aware, Russian money spends just as well as the rest.

Columbus Nova’s attorney Richard Owens stressed in a statement that the company is “solely owned and controlled by Americans” and said that, after Trump’s inauguration, the firm hired Cohen as a business consultant “regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures,” but that it had nothing to do with Vekselberg.

Let me translate all this for you.

A lawyer set up a consulting firm to capitalize on his increased profile following the election and cash in. Companies looking for information about how Trump operates paid him to consult on coming negotiations they’d be having with the administration.

It’s a game as old as the Republic. It’s mundane. It’s boring. It’s also been largely ineffective.

AT&T, for example, was likely looking for an angle on their Time Warner merger. What’s been Trump’s response? He’s publicly lambasted the deal while his administration successfully sued to block the merger.

In regards to the Russian menace, Mr. Vekselberg has been personally slapped with fresh sanctions since the election. How does that square with the conspiracy theory arising from this that he bought influence by being a client of a company Cohen consulted for? Answer: It doesn’t square. It makes no sense at all.

So what’s the real story here?

Well, it’s Stormy Daniels of course. Avenatti’s central claim that will prompt a hundred CNN round tables of speculation in the next 48 hours is that this consulting money, paid to a completely different company, “may have” been used to reimburse the Stormy Daniels payment. Oh my! Stop the Presses!

There’s just one problem. Not a single thing in these financial reports suggests any money Cohen received from consulting after the election went to pay Daniels. The timing doesn’t even add up. We know, by admission, that Cohen paid her out of retainer payments from President Trump. You’d think the media would remember that, as they’ve been losing their minds over it the past week.

This is Avenatti once again throwing nothingness against the wall while knowing that the media will run to lick it off like starved puppies. Russian Oligarchs! Stormy Daniels! The Russians may have paid off Stormy Daniels! Trump colluded with Russia!

In reality, this newest report tells us nothing of note. Michael Cohen received completely legal payments to consult. There’s no evidence any of this has anything to do with Stormy Daniels or was for any nefarious at all. The conspiracy nutters will run with this because it’s what they do. By next week, this story will have gone nowhere and it’ll be on to the next piece of red meat.