On Tuesday, Donald Trump tacitly admitted what much of the political world had suspected for some time–he’d reimbursed his longtime lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. This came after several months of first denying that he even knew about the payment, then denying that he knew he was paying Cohen back. But an equally massive bombshell detonated 24 hours earlier. The Daily Mail of the UK reports and The Washington Post confirms that soon after Trump’s upset victory, Cohen promised the government of Qatar access to the incoming administration–if they paid seven figures for the privilege.
On Wednesday night, The Daily Mail reported that in December 2016, Cohen made a shocking proposal to Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who ran the tiny oil-rich nation’s sovereign wealth fund. A number of Qatari dignitaries were meeting with incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn and incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon at Trump Tower. Al-Rumaihi and Cohen were also at Trump Tower, but didn’t attend the meeting itself. According to a senior source in the government of nearby Kuwait, Cohen asked al-Rumaihi to send “millions to various members of the Trump family.” Al-Rumaihi turned the offer down flat.
One of the few people to notice this story on our side of the Atlantic was MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. Predictably, he went to town on it. Watch here.
In a colossal understatement, O’Donnell said that if there was anything at all to this, Cohen was “in much, much more trouble than we have previously known.” David Frum agreed, saying that this was potentially “as explosive as anything that’s been reported” about Trump, and this was something that “I don’t know anyone can survive.”
Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, put it more succinctly.
Earlier this week, Avenatti had tweeted pictures al-Rumaihi at Trump Tower in December 2016.
Al-Rumaihi subsequently confirmed he had indeed been at Trump Tower at that time, and Avenatti hinted that this was just the tip of a very large iceberg.
On Wednesday night, The Post fleshed the story out further. According to three sources, Cohen and al-Rumaihi were having dinner at a New York hotel when al-Rumaihi said that Qatar expected to invest in Trump’s planned infrastructure program. Cohen offered to find some projects that would be of interest to Qatar–for a $1 million upfront fee. Al-Rumahi balked.
According to The Post, that didn’t stop Cohen from making another pitch a few days later at Trump Tower. He promised access to and inside advice about the incoming administration in return for $1 million. This renewed offer was also refused.
This comes on the heels of news that Cohen wrung hefty sums from AT&T, Novartis, and others in return for access to Trump. Let’s not beat around the bush. Cohen was engaging in pay-to-play of the worst type. We also have yet more proof that the swamp not only wasn’t draining, but overflowing.
We can’t automatically assume that he did this on Trump’s orders. Remember, the Trump camp would have us believe that Cohen “facilitated” the hush money payment to Daniels on his own, and Trump found out about it later.
A close friend of Cohen told the (New York) Daily News that Cohen would go to jail rather than flip on Trump. But with Cohen stewing in his own criminal juices, one has to wonder how long that will last.
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