By Sophie Smith
If the name ‘Michael Cohen’ rings any bells, it may be about his connection with President Donald Trump’s latest scandal – a lawsuit from adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who had an affair with Trump in 2006. In recent weeks it has been revealed Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, paid Daniels $130,000 of his own money the night before the 2016 election to prevent her from going public about the affair.
It appears the Daniels scandal is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Cohen’s history of crooked behavior. Cohen has been the man behind the scenes of Donald Trump’s work for years. As Trump’s lawyer and confidante, as well as an executive member of several Trump family organizations, he is involved in several – if not all – of the president’s recent business dealings. He was head negotiator in many of Trump’s international business deals, including one with the Russian government to construct a Trump building in Moscow.
Years of shady work, particularly the hush money he paid Stormy Daniels in 2016, has come back to bite Cohen, who is now under federal investigation for criminal activity. In early April, the FBI received a warrant to raid Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office and the hotel room in which he was living. Agents, in search of incriminating documents, seized his phone and computer records, among other evidence.
As is to be expected, Donald Trump refuted the investigation with his characteristic fury. The president called the raid a “pure and simple witch hunt” and took to Twitter, where he wrote, “Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past… All lawyers are deflated and concerned!”
Trump and Cohen believe the FBI should not have access to the documents, since they are to be kept confidential between the lawyer and his client. However, prosecutors argue that Cohen is under investigation for his business dealings with Trump, which have nothing to do with his work as Trump’s lawyer – thus, attorney-client privilege, while legitimate in other situations, cannot protect Cohen from these raids.
The danger this investigation poses to Trump is more than a violation of privacy. Even the fact that the investigation was granted a search warrant is telling of its significance. Careful precautions were made before the raid, so as to avoid any mistakes in such a publically prominent case. In order for investigators to receive a warrant, they must have compiled incredible evidence to present to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who gave the warrant. The evidence must have been huge in both quantity and gravity.
At the moment, the investigation only concerns Cohen’s private business dealings. There is the possibility, however, that the investigation is circling back to Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.
Recently-discovered evidence suggests Cohen met with a top figure in the Russian government in Prague during the 2016 campaign. This evidence confirms what a retired British spy has already purported. Cohen remains secretive about his time in the Czech Republic, claiming he has never been to Prague. After a dossier was released in January that accused him of this meeting with Russians, he even tweeted, “I have never been to Prague in my life. #fakenews.” (Can you see why he and Donald make such a good team?)
The January dossier suggested that in Cohen met with Konstantin Kosachev, a head Russian diplomat, along with a second Russian and several Eastern European hackers while in Prague. The group allegedly discussed how to pay those who worked, under direction of the Kremlin, to hack into Hillary Clinton campaign’s records. This has yet to be proved, but investigators have found evidence that Cohen crossed the border from Germany to the Czech Republic around August 2016, the time when the dossier reported the meeting took place.
There is much work to do before Michael Cohen will face repercussions for his business dealings or his connection to the Russian collusion. Even if he were to be indicted, there is always the possibility of a pardon from President Trump. Yet the Cohen developments show yet another layer of corruption within Trump’s inner circle, as well as another connection between Trump and Russia. For now, we can hold onto hope that the investigation of Cohen seems to promise something big is coming in the growing case against Donald Trump.