Michael Cohen made millions of dollars after the election as a "Trump whisperer," charging corporate clients large sums for insights into the thinking of the new administration—but it's still unclear whether his behavior was illegal or merely "swampy." Sources tell the Washington Post that after President Trump took office, Cohen boasted to potential clients that he spoke to Trump often and was still the president's personal attorney and "fixer." One associate says that in the summer of 2017 Cohen told him: "I'm crushing it." Analysts say Cohen, whose clients included a company linked to a Russian oligarch, could be in deep trouble if he promised government actions in return for cash. In other coverage:
- A $1.2 million meeting. Drug company Novartis says it hired Cohen for $100,000 a month to advise it on the administration's approach to ObamaCare repeal and other issues—but it decided after a single meeting that he "would be unable provide the services" needed. The company still paid Cohen a total of $1.2 million because it had signed a one-year contract, the Hill reports. The company says it cooperated with Robert Mueller's investigation in November when it was asked about the Cohen payments.
- "Trump whisperers." Cohen was far from the only member of Trump's inner circle who tried to cash in on corporations' attempts to understand what was going on inside the administration, Politico reports. "Everyone was hiring ‘Trump whisperers’ in 2017—every single hanger-on in the Trump orbit made a fortune in 2017,” says one GOP consultant. "It's a little bit like Lucy hanging out behind her table and charging people five cents for wisdom," says Democratic lobbyist Rich Gold.
- Turning "exile into opportunity." The New York Times looks at how Cohen turned "exile into opportunity" after he was denied a job in the Trump White House, where he had seen himself as a possible chief of staff. He formed a "strategic alliance" with law firm Squire Patton Boggs, which was among those struggling to deal with a new administration that had few ties to established lobbying or consulting firms.
- AT&T also spoke to Mueller. AT&T—which had issues before the administration including the Time Warner merger—confirmed Wednesday that it paid $200,000 to Cohen's Essential Consultants firm last year, but it "did no legal or lobbying work" for AT&T, reports CNN. The company said it was contacted by Mueller's investigation late last year and fully cooperated.
- Cohen's lawyers fire back. Cohen's lawyers told a judge Wednesday that some of the financial information released by Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, was "completely inaccurate," the AP reports. They accused Avenatti of trying to "prejudice and discredit" their client.
- Client "well placed" to win contract. Another client who paid Cohen through Essential Consultants was Korea Aerospace Industries, a South Korean firm trying to enter the US market, Business Insider reports. The firm says it paid Cohen for advice on US accounting standards. South Korean analysts say the firm is "well placed" to win a $16.3 billion joint bid with Lockheed Martin to provide training aircraft to the Air Force.
- Possible leak investigated. Avenatti has not disclosed how he obtained the Cohen financial records he provided to news outlets Tuesday, and the Treasury Department is investigating whether they were illegally leaked, USA Today reports.
- "Nothing of this seems right." Cohen was not registered as a lobbyist, though Robert Weissman of the Public Citizen advocacy group says his activities sound a lot more like lobbying than consulting. "It stretches the imagination that the work was just for advice. There is no reason that he would have any blinding insights," he tells the AP. "Sending money to a shell company, instead of his business, that sets off some alarm bell. Nothing of this seems right."
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