Shell game: Trump, Cohen rake in big bucks by selling access
Exposed: President Trump's personal lawyer appears to have been running a front company to funnel money used to pay off porn stars and guarantee corporate access to the White House. | Evan Vucci / AP

New documents show that a shell company set up by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s fixer, was used not just to pay off a pornography star and an impregnated Playboy model, but, far worse, to enrich Trump and his fixer in exchange for access to the president and the U.S. government.

The shell company that was used to silence the pornographic film actress is the same company that received millions of dollars from a known Russian gangster with operations around the world and from giant corporations that appeared to be, in effect, bribing President Trump to pull strings in their favor regarding matters that were up for review by him or by the U.S. government.

The first revelations were made by Michael Avenatti, lawyer for the adult film actress Stormy Daniels, but were confirmed yesterday in much greater detail by NBC, the New York Times, and the Associated Press.

The Times confirmed that the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., was used to handle far more than just payments to silence women abused by the president or other top Republicans. The Times was able to verify that, at a minimum, $4.4 million passed through the phony company from about the time of Trump’s election until January 2018.

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s attorney and personal fixer, arrives in Trump Tower, in New York, Dec. 16, 2016. | Richard Drew / AP

Cohen collected $250,000 from the company after he set up payments last year and this year by Elliott Broidy, a wealthy GOP donor who allegedly impregnated a Playboy model.

One of the biggest deals, however, was a payment to the Cohen-Trump shell company of $500,000 from Columbus Nova, itself a front operation for Viktor Vekselberg, the well-known Russian oligarch and gangster. Vekselberg and his cousin Andrew Intrater, the CEO of Columbus Nova, both were prominent guests at the Trump inauguration. The cousin gave Trump $250,000 at the time.

It is likely that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already had this information for quite some time, since the FBI stopped and questioned Veckselberg at an airport earlier this year as he stepped off the plane.

The multinational drug company Novartis also made huge payments to the Cohen-Trump operation. Avenatti described those payments on national television last night, before they were fully confirmed by the Times. There were four payments of $99,980 each month from October of 2017 through January 2018, totaling nearly $400,000. The strange figures just under $100,000 he noted, skirts federal laws requiring reporting of political donations. The payment amounts were thus crafted to avoid government scrutiny.

Novartis apparently got a big bang for its bucks—and fast.

The company’s CEO, according to the Times, was invited to dinner with President Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. In any case, Novartis is always eager to please the U.S. government, since it is constantly seeking approvals from U.S. drug regulators for products it seeks to market. What better way to achieve that goal than to spend $10 million, which it did last year, lobbying Congress and $150,000 to essentially bribe the president?

Some of the companies implicated.

The payoff was successful, too, as the president gave up his campaign promise of healthcare for all in favor of insurance company and pharmaceutical company schemes.

Korea Airspace, another company involved in Cohen’s pay-for-play operation, kicked $150,000 into what was essentially a “keep President Trump happy” fund. The company had everything to gain from bribing Trump because it was competing for a contract to build trainer jets for the U.S. Air Force.

Among the more outrageous payments to the shell company were AT&T payments of up to $200,000, also between October 2017 and January 2018. AT&T made its contribution to what amounted to a Trump welfare fund as it was seeking federal approval of a proposed merger with Time Warner.

These latest revelations about the extent to which the president could be profiting from the sale of access to the White House and the U.S. government may be the most serious Trump scandal yet to rock the nation. The feeling of many seasoned observers, however, is that worse is yet to come.


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.