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

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Cases: 594427

Reported Deaths: 7389
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1229681733
Ramsey51530876
Dakota46037452
Anoka41844440
Washington26983283
Stearns22293222
St. Louis17814305
Scott17324126
Wright16121140
Olmsted1326598
Sherburne1175388
Carver1051245
Clay816792
Rice8075108
Blue Earth751941
Crow Wing666990
Kandiyohi657383
Chisago603251
Otter Tail575878
Benton572397
Goodhue478772
Douglas468576
Mower466732
Winona455150
Itasca440556
McLeod425459
Isanti424864
Morrison419860
Nobles408148
Beltrami397859
Steele389315
Polk384968
Becker381153
Lyon361251
Carlton346054
Freeborn342129
Pine329122
Nicollet326443
Brown305840
Mille Lacs305353
Le Sueur293123
Todd282832
Cass274628
Meeker257340
Waseca236522
Martin230932
Roseau209419
Wabasha20643
Hubbard190241
Dodge18543
Renville180543
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Houston172016
Cottonwood165823
Fillmore156710
Wadena156122
Pennington153719
Faribault152619
Chippewa152438
Kanabec145126
Sibley143910
Aitkin135336
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Rock128419
Jackson121812
Pipestone116026
Yellow Medicine114220
Pope11096
Murray10639
Swift105818
Stevens91511
Marshall88117
Clearwater87016
Koochiching84315
Wilkin81612
Lake81120
Lac qui Parle75322
Big Stone6004
Lincoln5813
Grant5788
Mahnomen5539
Norman5409
Unassigned49593
Kittson48622
Red Lake3987
Traverse3705
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Cook1660

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 367374

Reported Deaths: 5946
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57696628
Linn20903335
Scott20071242
Black Hawk15825308
Woodbury15141228
Johnson1449883
Dubuque13382209
Dallas1118698
Pottawattamie11140168
Story1062848
Warren577889
Clinton556193
Cerro Gordo541289
Sioux514574
Webster512293
Marshall483275
Muscatine4812100
Des Moines458966
Wapello4305122
Buena Vista424940
Jasper419472
Plymouth401280
Lee376255
Marion363175
Jones299157
Henry292037
Carroll286052
Bremer284960
Crawford266240
Boone265134
Benton256655
Washington253950
Dickinson248543
Mahaska230451
Jackson222142
Clay215725
Kossuth215564
Tama209871
Delaware209741
Winneshiek196935
Page192722
Buchanan191532
Cedar190123
Hardin185743
Fayette185241
Wright184637
Hamilton180249
Harrison179673
Clayton169756
Butler165034
Madison162519
Mills162422
Floyd161142
Cherokee159038
Lyon158241
Poweshiek154934
Allamakee151451
Iowa148924
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Winnebago142631
Cass138654
Calhoun138413
Grundy136433
Emmet134240
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Sac130519
Union128333
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Mitchell126442
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Guthrie121530
Franklin120821
Humboldt119126
Palo Alto112823
Howard104622
Montgomery103338
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Monroe95229
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Davis83524
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