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Russian billionaire questioned about Cohen payments

A US investment firm thrust into the spotlight because of its payment to President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is distancing itself from a Russian investment company and its oligarch chairman.

Posted: May 11, 2018 4:20 AM
Updated: May 11, 2018 4:20 AM

This paragraph from new CNN reporting on Michael Cohen, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, is both startling and revealing:

"[Cohen] aggressively pitched himself to potential clients, reminding them of his proximity to the most powerful man in the world. Those efforts landed Cohen lucrative consulting deals. New reporting this week revealed that in the months following the 2016 election, Cohen received hundreds of thousands of dollars from powerful entities based in and outside of the United States."

What's startling is the sums companies were willing to pay Cohen for his "insights" into the president-elect. Pharmaceutical giant Novartis doled out a whopping $1.2 million to Cohen. AT&T, which is in the midst of an attempt to buy CNN's parent company Time Warner, paid Cohen at least $200,000.

The revealing -- and more important -- insight that comes out of Cohen's business boom is this: No one thought Donald Trump was going to win.

Let me explain.

Normally, in the course of a presidential campaign the corporate world makes sure that it has some ties to each of the candidates. They have someone in their shop who is also a longtime friend or trusted adviser to the candidate. That doesn't mean that these big companies are in constant contact with the campaign or even have face-to-face conversations with the candidate or his (or her) inner circle.

Think of it more of an insurance policy. The president -- any president -- has a profound impact on the corporate world. The corporate world, therefore, likes to know it has entree to the president's inner circle if they absolutely need it.

In most presidential campaigns -- and with most presidential candidates -- this is a seamless process. The vast majority have spent time in elected office. They have interacted regularly with the influence culture of lobbyists and the like. Someone in large-sized company always knows someone in a big presidential campaign.

The Trump campaign was not like most campaigns. Sure, Trump was a businessman. But, his business was selling himself. And the people who worked for him were, largely, just that: People who did stuff Trump told them to do. His inner circle was very, very small and almost entirely composed of family members and a handful of slavishly devoted underlings like Cohen and Dan Scavino.

That insularity made the number of people who could give you insight (ahem) into Trump very, very limited. But, even then, the inner circle could have been worked for connections by corporate America.

Why wasn't it? Because -- you guessed it -- no one thought Trump would win. Remember that he began the campaign as something in between a punchline and as asterisk. Even as he began to pick up steam in the Republican primary, there was an overwhelming belief -- particularly in corporate America -- that he would never ultimately be the nominee. That disbelief continued into the general election -- fueled by polls and punditry that suggested that the question was not whether Trump would lose but rather whether he would lose in a historically large way.

Fast forward to 10 p.m. (or so) on November 8, 2016 -- aka the moment it became clear that Trump not only might win but that he was likely to win. Cue panic for corporations who realized in that moment -- and the days that followed -- that they had zero knowledge of this president's views on subjects near and dear to their business and, even worse, they didn't have an obvious entry point to make sure he heard what they wanted/needed him to hear.

Which brings us to Cohen, who, say what you will about him, sensed a business opportunity. His sales pitch, according to one GOP strategist familiar with it, was devastating in its transactional simplicity:

"I don't know who's been representing you, but you should fire them all. I'm the guy you should hire. I'm closest to the President. I'm his personal lawyer."

In short: You don't know Trump. You need to. I can make that happen.

And, people paid. Because a) they had the money and b) they wanted the insight -- which is better read as access.

Now, of course, they are apologizing. "We made a mistake in entering into this agreement," said the Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan on Thursday.

They did make a mistake, but it's not the one Narasimhan is apologizing for. The mistake was not taking Trump seriously, not believing he could win. Everything after that was trying to fix that original mistake. And Michael Cohen was simply an outgrowth of that desire to just fix it.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 312969

Reported Deaths: 3637
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin661641115
Ramsey27766505
Anoka22149228
Dakota22015190
Washington13999115
Stearns13733116
St. Louis8747112
Scott846255
Wright775843
Olmsted665634
Sherburne587641
Clay498457
Carver474213
Blue Earth414116
Rice412836
Kandiyohi408122
Crow Wing359634
Otter Tail314322
Chisago311611
Nobles308730
Benton299451
Winona276930
Mower261623
Douglas260337
Polk256324
Morrison231629
Lyon218711
Beltrami217117
McLeod212812
Becker205415
Goodhue203228
Steele19497
Isanti190617
Itasca190423
Carlton185816
Todd181214
Nicollet162525
Mille Lacs153631
Freeborn15336
Le Sueur147011
Cass143710
Brown141315
Waseca139211
Pine13658
Meeker12879
Roseau11964
Hubbard114925
Martin113320
Wabasha10561
Redwood94619
Chippewa8877
Cottonwood8664
Renville86527
Dodge8600
Watonwan8544
Wadena8016
Sibley7934
Rock7779
Aitkin76730
Pipestone72518
Fillmore6990
Houston6984
Yellow Medicine64812
Pennington6478
Kanabec61913
Murray5873
Swift5838
Faribault5612
Pope5391
Clearwater5248
Stevens5103
Marshall4979
Unassigned49359
Jackson4881
Lake4226
Koochiching3926
Wilkin3895
Lac qui Parle3773
Lincoln3591
Norman3497
Big Stone3182
Mahnomen2964
Grant2796
Kittson2248
Red Lake2133
Traverse1481
Lake of the Woods1001
Cook720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 227398

Reported Deaths: 2368
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk33642336
Linn14352165
Scott1124986
Black Hawk10893135
Woodbury10372126
Johnson955336
Dubuque923291
Story678822
Dallas637257
Pottawattamie631970
Sioux370325
Webster358535
Cerro Gordo357144
Marshall348546
Clinton331344
Buena Vista305414
Des Moines291520
Muscatine289268
Warren281914
Plymouth276042
Wapello255772
Jones232313
Jasper217944
Marion205320
Lee203917
Carroll198422
Bremer195212
Henry18307
Crawford174616
Benton170619
Tama154340
Jackson144613
Delaware144221
Washington141314
Dickinson139210
Boone137011
Mahaska126827
Wright12456
Clay11784
Buchanan117010
Hardin115810
Page11374
Hamilton11199
Clayton11175
Cedar108413
Harrison107729
Kossuth10667
Calhoun10617
Floyd105016
Mills10487
Fayette103910
Lyon10338
Butler10216
Poweshiek99313
Winneshiek97613
Iowa95812
Winnebago93023
Hancock8677
Grundy86311
Louisa86216
Sac8608
Chickasaw8574
Cherokee8484
Allamakee81811
Cass81623
Mitchell7984
Appanoose79312
Humboldt7715
Union7706
Shelby76511
Emmet76424
Guthrie75415
Franklin73921
Jefferson7142
Madison6864
Unassigned6690
Palo Alto6554
Keokuk5997
Howard5599
Pocahontas5584
Greene5250
Osceola5241
Ida48913
Clarke4874
Davis4709
Taylor4653
Montgomery46311
Monroe44412
Adair4418
Monona4352
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Fremont3583
Van Buren3585
Lucas3256
Decatur3170
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