Smoke Signals from the Swamp: Michael Cohen – the early years

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By Tuesday, Jun 12 Viewpoints  7 Comments
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen outside court. Photo courtesy VICE News

If you’ve ever taken a taxicab in New York City, it’s easy to imagine your fare clicking ever upward as Michael Cohen, behind the wheel, takes the longest, most congested route down side streets you’ve never seen to drive you to the airport.

Down here in the swamp, it’s not hard to find someone willing to bet a high-priced steak dinner that Michael Cohen will bring down the president long before Paul Manafort.

There are many times watching the Trumpovian hijinks that I imagine I’ve fallen into some Grade-B mob movie: Manafort, Gates, Flynn, Carson, Pruitt with his first-class travel and security detail trips for moisturizer, those over-priced EPA souvenir pens, all the president’s men looking to take the taxpayers for everything they can.

Since we’re working our smoke-signal way through the supporting cast the president has surrounded himself with, it’s probably a good time to get to know the president’s private attorney. And because of the recent raid on his offices and the seizure of a massive amount of documents and some recordings, Michael Cohen’s importance in the Russian Affair and the Neverending Obstruction looms even larger. Maybe this is just an analyst’s obsession but here it is: how better to know a man in the present than to take a dive into his past?

So what do you say we take a brief walk down the Michael Cohen memory lane, and hopefully gain some useful insight into the habits and values of the president’s pre-presidential right-hand man?

A crowded highway, but let’s start with the early days of Michael Cohen and see what insights we gain about our president’s private attorney and a relationship that now threatens them both.

A 2011 report by ABC News about the efforts Cohen was making for a possible Trump run for president in 2012 suggests: “Cohen, 44, is known around the office — and around New York — as Trump’s ‘pit bull.’ Some have even nicknamed him ‘Tom,’ a reference to Tom Hagen, the consigliore to Vito Corleone in the ‘Godfather’ movies. ‘It means that if somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit,’ Cohen said … ‘If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.’ (emphasis added)

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in New York City in April. Photo: Seth Wenig/Associated Press

The story celebrates their once-upon-a-time mutual admiration society: “Cohen owns several residences in Trump buildings, including a home at Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza, and Trump Park Avenue, just blocks from Central Park. His parents and in-laws have also invested in Trump properties in New York and Florida. ‘Michael Cohen has great insight into the real estate market,’ Trump said of Cohen in a 2007 New York Post interview. ‘He has invested in my buildings because he likes to make money — and he does.’

“The feeling is mutual. ‘I think the world of him,’ Cohen said of the billionaire real estate and reality television mogul who has said he will decide sometime before June whether to run for president. ‘I respect him as a businessman, and I respect him as a boss.’ The two talk regularly – ‘I speak to him even more than I did before,’ Cohen said — and he has spearheaded a variety of projects for Trump, including sealing a business partnership in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, running a mixed martial arts promotion company called Affliction Entertainment and a firm that turns landfills into golf courses.”

Emily Jane Fox’s Vanity Fair piece is entitled “Michael Cohen Would Take A Bullet For Donald Trump.” She, too, is fond of the ‘Godfather’ reference: “Cohen has been described as the sixth Trump child, or as the Tom Hagen in this twisted version of The Godfather, and sometimes as both, even by Cohen himself. It is, in many ways, a fair description. Like Trump, Cohen has a porous filter, a perennially puffed-up chest, and a penchant for histrionics, particularly when things are not going his way. He also grew up on the outskirts of New York City looking in, doesn’t sleep more than three hours per night, he said, and appears to subscribe to the notion that all press is good press. When I asked Cohen how he handles being the object of social-media ire, he responded, without a breath, “It means I’m relevant.” (emphasis added)

If you want to get just a small sense of the complicated task Mueller’s investigative team is facing, try to unravel Michael Cohen’s tangled and twisted connections to Russian and Ukrainian money, not to mention his uncle’s connection to the Italian mob.

A New York Times profile of May 5, 2018, notes: “‘My cousins are all either lawyers or doctors,’ Mr. Cohen told The New York Times last year. One of those relatives was his uncle Dr. Morton W. Levine. Uncle Morty, as he was known to his family, had no children of his own, and he and Mr. Cohen were close … Dr. Levine, a family practitioner, provided medical assistance to members of the Lucchese crime family, ‘which aided their illegal activities,’ according to a sworn affidavit in 1993 from an F.B.I. special agent. The agent was involved in the investigation of the Lucchese underboss, Anthony (Gaspipe) Casso, who ‘regarded Levine as someone who would do anything for him,’ according to the affidavit. That account was buttressed by testimony from a longtime Lucchese associate in an unrelated 2006 federal trial …

“Dr. Levine also owned El Caribe, a Brooklyn catering hall that for decades was the scene of mob weddings and Christmas parties. Two of New York’s most notorious Russian mobsters once maintained offices there … Mr. Cohen was among the minority owners of El Caribe, Dr. Levine has said, although he added that Mr. Cohen gave up his ownership stake after the 2016 election.”

Like the Russian nesting dolls that Dossier author Christopher Steele brought back from Moscow, one connection encloses another and another. The Times continues: “Mr. Cohen’s marriage in 1994 gave him entree to communities of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. His new father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, had emigrated from Ukraine in 1975. By the time of the wedding, Mr. Shusterman had landed in serious legal trouble. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to evading federal reporting requirements for large cash transactions, admitting that he had cashed $5.5 million worth of checks to evade disclosure laws. Mr. Shusterman cooperated with prosecutors in a related case and was sentenced to probation.

“In the years after his marriage, Mr. Cohen began doing business with Ukrainian and Russian immigrants. They hailed from New York, Chicago and Florida, in neighborhoods like the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn and parts of Miami like Sunny Isles, known as the Russian Riviera, communities through which a vein of organized crime ran.” (emphasis added)

Vladimir Malakhov. Image courtesy New York Islanders

Those of you who have followed reports of Donald Trump’s brief sexual liaison with Stephanie Clifford, a k a Stormy Daniels, are familiar with Cohen’s changing story of the nondisclosure agreement and the $130,000 payoff to win her silence. There’s been much confusion about how much Donald Trump knew about the payment from Cohen’s Essential Consultants LLC account and when he might have known about it.

What most people don’t know is that Michael Cohen has a history of confusing payoffs and significant memory lapses. Nineteen years before, in 1999, there was a mysterious $350,000 payment from Vladimir Malakhov, a Russian-born NHL hockey player to Michael Cohen, a payment that seemed to disappear and prompted two lawsuits.

According to Seth Hettena, Malakhov connects to President Trump in a roundabout way: “A few years before he wrote the check to Cohen, Malakhov was shaken down by a Russian mobster, according to testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing on Russian organized crime. Malakhov, who at the time was playing for the New York Islanders, was approached in the National Restaurant in New York City’s Brighton Beach neighborhood. The man who demanded money from the hockey player worked for Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov, one of the most powerful Russian Mafia bosses in America …

“Ivankov is one of several Mobsters who turned up in Trump Tower. Ivankov also showed up Trump’s New Jersey casino, the Taj Mahal. Ivankov’s phone book included a working number for the Trump Organization’s Trump Tower residence, and a Trump Organization fax machine. Ivankov was arrested in 1995 and sent to prison for extortion. After his release he returned to Russia where he was assassinated.”

It took years before Cohen was deposed and asked about the $350,000. Yuri Felshtinsky of the website Gordonua.com provides excerpts from Cohen’s deposition. Clearly, like Donald Trump, Cohen has a complex relationship with the truth and this testimony may well prefigure some of the back-and-forth his boss will employ in any under-oath interview with Avenatti or Mueller:

QUESTION: Mr. Cohen, do you recognize the signature on the check?
ANSWER: No.
QUESTION: You cannot say whether that is or is not your signature?
ANSWER: You asked me the signature. There are two signatures on this check.
QUESTION: I apologize. There is a signature that is the signature of the maker of the check on the front and there is also an endorsing signature on the back. Do you recognize that endorsing signature as your signature?
ANSWER: Yes. It could be.
QUESTION: You are not certain whether it is or not?
ANSWER: I don’t know but it could be.


QUESTION: Let me ask you, have you maintained proper records for your trust account at all times since being admitted to the New York bar?
ANSWER: I do. […]
QUESTION: Mr. Cohen, let me ask you what are some of the possible reasons that somebody would have sent a check to your trust account in 1999?
ANSWER: I have no idea. […]
QUESTION: You have no idea why somebody would send a check to your trust account?
ANSWER: I don’t know what this is about. It is from 1999. I have no recollection.
QUESTION: What would the possible reasons have been for your receiving a check addressed to your trust account in 1999? […] Is there any place else, anything else that a check written to your trust account could have represented?
ANSWER: At the time in 1999 I was acting counsel for a fund called the Ukrainian Capital Growth Fund which was also located at this address. […] Other than that, no. I don’t believe anything else.
QUESTION: Is it your testimony that it is possible that a check written to your trust account could have been written for the purpose of being deposited in the Ukrainian Growth Fund?
ANSWER: It is possible.
QUESTION: Did your law practice in 1999 include any other persons including partners, associates or employees?
ANSWER: No.
QUESTION: Other than the Ukrainian Growth Fund were you involved in 1999 in any other business besides the practice of law?
ANSWER: Yes.
QUESTION: What business was that?
ANSWER: The taxicab business in New York City.
QUESTION: That was separate from your practice of law?
ANSWER: Correct. It was — it was operated out of the same building.
QUESTION: What was your responsibility regarding the taxicab business?
ANSWER: I was a principal.
QUESTION: What did the business do?
ANSWER: Operated 260 Yellow Cabs in the City of New York.
QUESTION: I see. Could this check have been in any way related to that business?
ANSWER: […] Yes, it is possible.
QUESTION: Were there other people involved in the taxicab business? […]
ANSWER: Yes.
QUESTION: Who are those people?
ANSWER: I had only one partner. Simon Garber. […]

Confused a bit? The New York Times tries to simplify matters: “Mr. Cohen would find himself in the middle of a Sunny Isles real estate deal involving a hockey player and a purported figure from the Russian underworld.”

Seth Hettena explains it this way: an acquaintance asked Malakhov, the now well-to-do hockey player, for a loan. “The acquaintance was a woman named Julia Fomina. According to an affidavit filed by Malakhov’s agent, the money was intended not for Fomina but rather her boyfriend in Russia, Vitaly Buslaev. Malakhov loaned $350,000 to Fomina and, on the advice of his attorney, secured the loan by having Fomina sign over a mortgage for her apartment on the 24th floor of a Miami Beach condo tower.

For reasons that aren’t clear, Fomina instructed Malakhov’s wife to send the $350,000 loan to Michael Cohen. The check was issued in January 1999 to Cohen personally, not his law firm or many businesses, and deposited in Cohen’s Citibank trust account. Sometime later, Fomina defaulted on her loan.  When Malakhov moved to foreclose on the condominium, Fomina swore under oath that she never received the $350,000 that had been sent to Cohen.” 

The check was deposited but somehow the money disappeared.

“Mr. Buslaev,” the Times tells us “who has been identified by multiple Russian media outlets as a Mafia figure, was a friend of one of Mr. Cohen’s business partners … Mr. Cohen said in an interview last year that he did not know Mr. Buslaev. He declined to identify the person to whom he sent the $350,000, saying only that he had honored the athlete’s request. ‘The money went to where it was directed to go,’ he said.” (emphasis added)

Michael Cohen and his mysterious payoffs.

Then there’s the taxis. The New York Times tell us it was Cohen’s father-in-law who first introduced him to the taxi business: “Mr. Cohen’s father-in-law, Mr. Shusterman, initially found work as a taxi driver after arriving in the United States. By 1993, he accumulated nine taxi medallions — the coveted metal placards that permit people to own or operate cabs — then worth roughly $1.5 million. Mr. Shusterman circulated among his fellow taxi operators, trying to help Mr. Cohen find work … Not long afterward, Mr. Cohen began building his own taxi business, even as he was taking on personal injury work as a lawyer.

“He partnered with Symon Garber, another Ukrainian-born businessman, who was borrowing large amounts of money to finance taxi businesses in both Russia and the United States. A lawyer for the two men said in a court filing that he had helped them lay the groundwork for a planned taxi business in Moscow in the mid-1990s, although it never materialized.

“Mr. Cohen borrowed from a half-dozen banks and credit unions to buy taxi medallions. Then he used the medallions as collateral to borrow more money to buy more medallions, former colleagues said. He quickly amassed 30 medallions, each then worth about $250,000, but racked up millions in debt. Together, the two men managed 260 cabs in the late 1990s and early 2000s, some for other owners. Drivers paid them $100 a shift. Millions of dollars in cash flowed in. Mr. Cohen at some point began carrying a licensed pistol in an ankle holster.”

Besides his taxi business, Michael Cohen was practicing a small subset of New York City law. Seth Hettena explains it for Rolling Stone: “Cohen’s first job out of law school was for Melvyn J. Estrin, who had been exploiting New York’s insurance law for decades. Back in the 1970s, Estrin sent letters to physicians encouraging them to take advantage of the state’s new no-fault insurance law and run up the medical bills on accident victims …In 1995, Cohen’s last year at the firm, Estrin was indicted in a scheme to bribe insurance adjusters to inflate damage estimates and expedite claims. He pleaded guilty to second-degree bribery.

“Cohen’s work on behalf of accident victims was, if nothing else, prolific. In Cohen’s challenge to the April 9th raid [by the Southern District of New York], his attorneys told a Manhattan judge that Cohen had ‘hundreds of different clients’ from 1996 to 2006, when he ran his own private legal practice. ‘Negligence,’ which likely included the bodily injury claims filed on behalf of accident victims, then represented 90 percent of his legal work, Cohen said in a unrelated deposition obtained by Rolling Stone. Much of this work consisted of filing private arbitration claims, which are typically not a matter of public record. However, auto insurers dragged Cohen into court nearly 100 times between 1998 and 2003, asking judges to halt numerous claims he had filed for a variety of reasons, including fraud.

Cohen roamed the courthouses of New York City, filing lawsuits on behalf of people with little means who were seeking compensation for the injuries they suffered in car collisions. Many personal-injury lawyers make their living this way, but there was something striking about Cohen’s cases: Some of the crashes at issue didn’t appear to be accidents at all.

“A Rolling Stone investigation found that Cohen represented numerous clients who were involved in deliberate, planned car crashes as part of an attempt to cheat insurance companies. Furthermore, investigations by insurers showed that several of Cohen’s clients were affiliated with insurance fraud rings that repeatedly staged ‘accidents.’ And at least one person Cohen represented was indicted on criminal charges of insurance fraud while the lawsuit he had filed on her behalf was pending. Cohen also did legal work for a medical clinic whose principal was a doctor later convicted of insurance fraud for filing phony medical claims on purported “accident” victims. Taken together, a picture emerges that the personal attorney to the president of the United States was connected to a shadowy underworld of New York insurance fraud, a pervasive problem dominated by Russian organized crime that was costing the state’s drivers an estimated $1 billion a year.

“Cohen was never charged with any wrongdoing in any of these cases and there is no evidence that he knowingly filed false claims, which potentially could be grounds for criminal charges and disbarment.” (emphasis added)

A 2003 article by Fortune magazine revealed “investigators have also found evidence of other serious crimes allegedly committed by members of the ring, including money laundering and extortion. Many of those indicted are Russian emigres, and some of the illicit funds have been tracked to large corporations in Russia. Prosecutors refer to the investigation as the ‘Boris’ case — an acronym for Big Organized Russian Insurance Scam.”

Fortune explains: “In mid-August, Suffolk County district attorney Thomas Spota announced that a grand jury had indicted 567 people and corporations connected with the ring, which he says is tied to more than 1,000 car accidents in the New York area. The list of indictments includes passengers; the ‘runners’ who recruited them and orchestrated the accidents; the doctors who ‘diagnosed’ and ‘treated’ the victims; the medical clinics that processed their insurance claims; and the financiers the district attorney alleges are the masterminds of a vast and interconnected criminal enterprise.”

According to Rolling Stone, “Not only did Cohen represent clients in staged accidents, but some of his clients may not have been in the vehicle when the phony crash occurred. Another of his clients, a Haitian immigrant named Marie Pierre, was sued by State Farm in 2001, after an investigation determined she was involved in another fraud ring that used stolen identities. ‘Her account of the accident is [so] completely contradicted by the police report that it must be questioned whether she was present at the event,’ a lawyer for State Farm wrote …

“In another case brought by State Farm, court documents list Cohen as the defense attorney for four individuals charged in a civil action of being part of another ring that allegedly staged at least 10 accidents in 2000 and 2001. Cohen’s clients did not contest the charges that their 2001 accident was staged and State Farm was granted a default judgement. Another Cohen client, Nonna Fayerberg, was struck by a man involved in an insurance fraud ring.” (emphasis added)

Not long after, Michael Cohen took his money-making efforts to sea. As Anthony Cormier and Chris McDaniel of Buzzfeed put it: “Years before Trump’s candidacy, Michael D. Cohen backed a different kind of venture: a gambling cruise that stiffed employees and vendors, and blew off many of the ensuing lawsuits. The 190 foot yacht, The Atlantic would journey from Miami Beach three miles out to international where five hundred customers would drink, eat, dance and gamble at blackjack tables, play roulette, and try their hand at two hundred slot machines …

The boat that Michael Cohen’s company operated as a casino. Photo: Jacob Langston

“Trips were often full, 500 people a pop. But behind the scenes, Atlantic Casino was going sideways. It owed the marina $2.4 million and it owed a consulting company another $950,000. Managers asked people for patience on payroll checks, and then one day The Atlantic wasn’t in the marina anymore. ‘I have two kids and they owed me $4,000,’ said Ivan Philipov, a food and beverage manager. ‘That’s a lot of money to a guy like me. I never got any of it. None of the employees did.’

“…  the business left behind lenders, vendors, customers, and workers who filed at least 25 lawsuits accusing its owners of ripping them off. The casino’s implosion would be of little note, one of at least a dozen offshore gambling operations to fail in Florida during the last decade, except that one of the owners of Atlantic Casino is now President Donald Trump’s personal attorney and close adviser, Michael D. Cohen.”

Buzzfeed continues: “The casino paid people pennies on the dollar for what they were owed — if they were paid at all. Its operators were penalized by a judge for failing to respond to court filings and turn over documents. It failed to heed judgments against it, such as when the casino was ordered to pay a customer $360,000 after he was injured in rough seas. The man’s attorney says during the trial no one even showed up for the defense, an astonishing breach of legal protocol for a man who would later become one of the most powerful attorneys in America.

“The company’s counsel, David M. Goldstein, was in charge of drawing up the paperwork establishing the casino. At the time, Goldstein was in business with Alvin Malnik, a prominent South Florida figure accused in 1980 by gambling officials of associating with known mobsters such as Meyer Lansky …

Cohen’s 30 percent and commitment to contribute $1.5 million

“In an interview this week, Michael Cohen at first said that he did not have a stake in the casino business, only the yacht, and bore no responsibility for lost wages and unpaid debts. But BuzzFeed News then sent him documents with his signature showing he owned 30 percent of the company. ‘I disagree and, if I did, I never knew it,’ he said.” (emphasis added)

I mentioned Ukrainian money. Remember Cohen’s wife’s father is Ukrainian and Simon Garber, his taxicab partner is Ukrainian and as Kyiv Post, the self-described Global Voice of Ukraine reminds us, his brother Bryan “married into a Ukrainian family that holds agricultural investments.” And “in 2006, towering oil prices around the world were pushing investors to consider biofuel production. Ukraine, with its abundant crop production, seemed to be an ideal candidate for ethanol fuel. So a group of investors, apparently led by former people’s deputy and Yushchenko-era deputy coal minister Viktor Topolov, set out to build a $110 million ethanol processing plant in the city of Zolotonosha, 155 kilometers southeast of Kyiv.”

As Anthony Cormier and Chris McDaniel of Buzzfeed tell the story: Michael Cohen worked on behalf of Viktor Topolov, a politician whose associates are members of the Russian and Ukrainian underworld.

According to Buzzfeed: “The leader of Ukraine’s coal ministry and a personal friend of that country’s president, he had been a board member at a state-run bank, the top executive at a construction company and the president of a professional football club. But beyond his official titles, Topolov has also been investigated twice for money laundering and embezzlement, and the FBI has said his associates are ‘well-known’ members of the Russian mafia.

“Back in 2006, he co-owned an ethanol company with his long-time business partner, Alex Oronov. The two men wanted to build a factory in Ukraine, so Oronov tapped his son-in-law, Bryan Cohen, along with his brother, Michael Cohen, to pitch the deal to American investors from Morgan Stanley. Both Cohen brothers today insist they knew nothing about Topolov when they tried to raise money for his company.

“The Cohens gathered the bankers in a Kiev conference room in October of that year with other consultants, analysts and engineers. None of the Americans bit. The factory was eventually funded with the help of a multi-million-dollar loan, but no ethanol was ever produced. Topolov was a powerful ally, with access to Ukrainian banks and politicians. He also ran a conglomerate, Kyiv-Donbas, that employed three executives the FBI described as members of a violent Russian organized crime network.

“One was a mob enforcer who admitted taking part in at least 20 murders and was closely associated with Semion Mogilevich, a powerful boss in Russian organized crime. The other two were twin brothers who the FBI said are well-known in Russia’s criminal underworld, and who are believed to have ordered a hit on another gangster. A Ukrainian court document shows that Topolov was questioned as part of a money laundering scheme, and a prosecutor said that he ignored subpoenas and lied about his role in a money laundering and fraud investigation in the late 1990s …

“The normally loquacious Michael Cohen initially declined to answer detailed questions, aside from a curt text message: “You are wrong almost 100 percent.” When later told that business documents list him as a director of an American company tied to the deal, and multiple people recall seeing him at the investors meeting with Topolov in October 2006, Cohen insisted he played only a small role in raising money for the ethanol factory.

Directors of International Ethanol of Ukraine

He said that meeting was the only time he was in Topolov’s company and didn’t know how Oronov, who died earlier this year, and his partner first met. “Neither Bryan nor I know, have a relationship with or invited Viktor Topolov to the meeting in Kiev,” Cohen said. “Your attempt to concoct a scenario between this individual and me is ludicrous.”

Asked if he should have known whom he was working on behalf of, Cohen did not answer directly: “Everybody sort of brought somebody to the table. How he got there, I don’t know.” Cohen said he and his brother were in charge of attracting American investors. One of the financial firms that sent representatives was Morgan Stanley, which declined to comment on the matter. Cohen said the representatives expressed reservations about Ukraine’s political instability and declined to invest, and that once they walked away, so did he and his brother. Topolov’s involvement in the ethanol deal, which has not been fully reported before, sheds further light on Michael Cohen’s connections to Russian and Ukrainian business interests.”

“It’s not clear where the funding came from – at the time, Topolov was on the boards of state-owned Ukreksimbank and Index Bank, which was bought by Credit Agricole in August 2006. A Kharkiv-born American businessman named Alex Oronov joined the project in 2006 through a company called Harvest Moon East … Evgeniy Radovenyuk, the former CFO of Harvest Moon East and current CFO of Grain Alliance, said that the two Cohen brothers visited Ukraine in the mid‑2000s, as the launch of the Zolotonosha plant was being discussed … He participated in discussions, but there was no financial involvement,” Radovenyuk said.

“The question of the extent of Cohens’ involvement comes down to the ownership of two companies: International Ethanol of Ukraine Ltd. and Ukrethanol LLC. The Cohen brothers founded International Ethanol in April 2006 with Oronov, according to the New York State Corporate Registry. International Ethanol does not appear in Ukrainian registries as ever having done business here, despite the company’s name and timing of its founding.

“Ukrethanol acquired half of Harvest Moon in 2008, and continues to manage part of Oronov’s Ukraine business, according to financial disclosures. Ukrethanol is registered to an address on Long Island, care of Bryan Cohen. The address belongs to a law firm that Michael Cohen is reported to have formerly worked at. Harvest Moon pulled out of the Zolotonosha project in 2010, one year from its scheduled launch. Since then, the factory has stood idle.”

According to Talking Points Memo: “Cohen first came to Trump’s attention and interest because of his access to capital from Ukraine and Russia and as well as from emigres from those countries. That brought Cohen – who you might have thought hadn’t the slightest connection to or even a clue about the countries of the former Soviet Union – into the Trump Organization …”

This is how Vanity Fair puts it: “Cohen first met Trump through his son, Donald Jr., back in 2006. At the time, he was an attorney at a law firm, and he had a number of businesses on the side — at one point or another working in the taxi medallion business and the Ukrainian ethanol business with his brother, whose Ukrainian father-in-law had an agribusiness company. It was when he became treasurer of the board for Trump World Tower, where he and his family owned apartments, that Cohen said he caught their eye.

“After consulting with the president on a few legal matters, he said Trump brought him into his office and, to his shock, offered him a job. “He said, ‘I’d love it.’ I’d work right for him, that I’d be perfect. I said, ‘Well, how much are you paying?’ He writes a number on a piece of paper. I said, ‘No. It just wasn’t going to work.’ That’s when the negotiation then started. Everything with Trump is a negotiation.’

“They reached a deal, and Cohen became executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, setting up shop in Ivanka Trump’s old office, making him one of the highest-ranking employees without a shared last name.”

Next time, we’ll continue the Michael Cohen story with his work for the Trump Organization, the interconnected real estate deals he made with the extended Trump family and his attempts to negotiate silence from Donald Trump’s sexual partners.

And how following the Trump/Cohen money may bring down a president.

Sources:

“Donald Trump’s Political ‘Pit Bull’: Meet Michael Cohen”
Michael Falcone, April 16, 2011, ABC News
https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trumps-political-pit-bull-meet-michael-cohen/story?id=13386747

“Michael Cohen Would Take A Bullet For Donald Trump”
Emily Jane Fox, Sept. 6, 2017, Vanity Fair
https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/09/michael-cohen-interview-donald-trump

“Why Did a Russian NHL Player Sue Trump’s Lawyer, Michael Cohen”
Seth Hettena
https://trump-russia.com/2017/04/14/why-did-a-russian-nhl-player-sue-trumps-lawyer-michael-cohen/

“Who is Mr.Cohen? Trump’s attorney received $350,000 for the Izmaylovskaya Criminal Group”
Yuri Felshtinsky, March 30, 2018, English.gordonua.com
http://english.gordonua.com/news/exclusiveenglish/who-is-mrcohen-trumps-attorney-received-350000-for-the-izmaylovskaya-criminal-group-felshtinsky-181620.html

“How Michael Cohen, Trump’s Fixer, Built a Shadowy Business Empire”
William K. Rashbaum, Danny Hakim, Brian M. Rosenthal, Emily Flitter and Jesse Drucker, May 5, 2018, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/05/business/michael-cohen-lawyer-trump.html?

Excerpt about Makhalov in “Russian Organized Crimes in the United States”
https://books.google.com/books?id=-ruFVsNLPIQC&pg=PA51&lpg=PA51&dq=vladimir+malakhov+hockey+mafia&source=bl&ots=c2isRRsrRS&sig=GRbM0NXo1X4Sjtf1d9QisnLKLj0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiIw5zs85LTAhWGLSYKHU2TA4cQ6AEIWzAO – v=onepage&q=vladimir malakhov&f=f

“Better Call Cohen: The Shady Cases of a Trump Lawyer’s Personal Injury Practice”
Seth Hettena, Rolling Stone Magazine, May 1, 2018
https://www.rollingstone.com/shady-cases-michael-cohen-personal-injury-practice-w519679

“Inside Operation Boris It looked like a routine traffic accident on a wet Long Island highway. But it led investigators to a gigantic fraud they’re calling the Big Organized Russian Insurance Scam.”
Nicholas Stein, Dec. 8, 2003, Fortune Magazine
http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2003/12/08/355094/index.htm

“How Trump’s Lawyer Placed A Big Casino Bet That Left Dozens Empty-Handed”
Anthony Cormier and Chris McDaniel, Buzzfeed, March 15, 2017
https://www.buzzfeed.com/anthonycormier/trumps-lawyer-launched-an-offshore-casino-and-left-a-wake?

Lawsuit Cohen Casino Boat:
https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3516625/Sellitti-v-Majesty.pdf

Attorney’s Representation Casino Boat:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3516349-MLA-and-Majesty-Stockholders-Agreement.html – document/p21/a343614

Cohen’s Partners and 33% Share:
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3516349-MLA-and-Majesty-Stockholders-Agreement.html – document/p21/a343614

“Trump’s chief lawyer carries Ukraine baggage”
Josh Kovensky, Feb. 24, 2017, Kyiv Post
https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/trumps-chief-lawyer-carries-ukraine-baggage.html

“Michael Cohen, Trump and the Russian Connection”
Josh Marshall, June 9, 2017, Talking Points Memo
https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/michael-cohen-trump-and-the-russian-connection


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  1. Jane says:

    This article needs to go viral! Very good in-depth research done here.

    1. Carl Stewart says:

      Nonsense! This piece isn’t research at all…every “fact” comes from secondary sources. We don’t even know who “Dook Snyder” is and we should know.

      Snyder relies mainly on the voluminous anti-Cohen/Trump literature to make his case. Only the most disreputable news outlet would publish this junk, but what is most irresponsible is the guilt by association suggestion regarding Morton Levine, one of Michael Cohen’s uncles. Without any proof of improper behaviour, it is suggested that there is something unsavoury about Dr. Levine because he was personal physician to “members of the Lucchese family.” Do we draw negative inferences about lawyers, architects, accountants, dentists, or veterinarians based on their client lists? I’ve had clients of my law practice who I didn’t think were particularly upstanding citizens. Isn’t everyone entitled to proper legal representation and competent medical care?

      Who knows why The Edge chooses to run this dreck? It isn’t educational and it has nothing to do with the Berkshires. The latter might be acceptable if it advanced the cause of responsibile journalism. It doesn’t

  2. Dook Snyder says:

    One woman’s material that deserves a wider reading; another man’s dreck.
    I might remind Mr. Stewart that the New York Times journalists who reported that Morton Levine treated members of the local mob family were not trying Dr, Levine or Michael Cohen for that matter in a court of law. Nor am I. The attempt here was to assemble material from a variety of legitimate sources to form a useful profile. Perhaps using the language of your world to present some historical material that is “more probably true than not true” and therefore illuminates the world Michael Cohen came from and inhabits today. I’m sorry you find the exercise a waste of time. Surely everyone is entitled to proper legal representation and competent medical care. And in the absence, for pretty obvious reasons, of primary sources the judicious use of secondary sources.

    As for anonymity, I imagine as an attorney you can conjure up a variety of possible reasons why keeping one’s identity private might not be venal. Ask Mrs. Silence Dogood and Jonathan Oldstyle or Clive Hamilton or a host of folks in WITSEC or AA or those spilling secrets in any number of centers of power.

    1. Carl Stewart says:

      Mr Snyder:

      Your response is, not surprisingly, unresponsive to my criticisms. Engaging in dueling postings is less than satisfactory but i suspect that due to your need for anonymity, it is not likely that you’d accept an invitation to a public debate.

      My primary concern was your guilt-by-association comment regarding Dr, Morton Levine. The patients of his medical practice says absolutely nothing meaningful about his nephew, Michael Cohen, for the same reason that my representation of a member of the Gambino family in a criminal matter would be a non-fact in considering the character of my son, brother or uncle.

      The use of secondary sources is, simply stated, not journalism. Some people may find it a useful shortcut for s summary of what other people have written but that’s all it is. Did you, by the way, fact check any of the material you quoted?

      If one writes under a pseudonym, there should be a good reason for doing so. Are you worried that the Trump gang might put out a contact on you?

      N.B. For what it’s worth, I am probably at least as distressed as you are by the Trump gang and my objections are to your methodology, not your politics.

      1. Dook Snyder says:

        The American Heritage Dictionary
        Journalism
        The collecting, writing, editing, and presenting of news or news articles in newspapers and magazines and in radio and television broadcasts.
        Material written for publication in a newspaper or magazine or for broadcast.
        The style of writing characteristic of material in newspapers and magazines, consisting of direct presentation of facts or occurrences with little attempt at analysis or interpretation.

        Re Levine, it was The Times who first thought it of interest. A very small bit when connected to many other small bits begins to tell a story. A story that clearly doesn’t interest you – I obviously am interested in these many small bits … And in the free marketplace of ideas it may be possible to possess differing ideas of what is useful, what even is proper journalism. It’s clear as an attorney you relish debating. I humbly suggest you find worthier opponents. And leave me to my second-rate methodology. You don’t have to read any of it.

  3. Judith Lerner says:

    Dook Snyder’s Michael Cohen profile made me muse on whether people surrounding and including Trump are tripping into, are banging their heads on the Peter Principle. So many of them have risen to and are floundering around in their levels of incompetence in public, on the world stage. The White House appears to be functioning or not functioning according to Peter’s Corollary in chaos in which every post is or is becoming occupied by someone incompetent to carry out her or his duties. We get to watch them and the entire world suffers their ugliness and stupidity as they gleefully smash as much caring and careful governance as they are able; and which our federal systems and caretakers built with enormous cooperative efforts starting with our Constitution. Starting even before that. Peter Principle. Peter’s Corollary. Ugh!

    The vile methods and choices Michael Cohen and his co-incompetents live by and have consistently lived by are almost unbelievable to read of.

  4. Carl Stewart says:

    Mr “Snyder”

    The only thing you’ve said in our dialogue that I agree with is that you are not a worthy debate opponent. And what are those “other bits” about Morton Levine that along with being physician to a member(s) of the Lucchese family implicate him in wrongdoing? Or is it enough that the New York Times mentioned it so you found that secondary source sufficient for you to promote the defamation?

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