This week has not been the best one for those unfortunate enough to be in Trump World. The president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, faced a surprise FBI raid at his office on Monday, with agents seizing documents related to an array of topics, including the hush money Cohen dished out to adult film star Stormy Daniels in 2016 covering an affair with the president.
Cohen is reportedly being investigated for bank fraud and campaign finance law violations in connection to that payment.
That’s not all though. The New York Times has now revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is looking into the circumstances surrounding a massive payment from a leading Ukrainian to the Trump Foundation back in 2015, just when the 2016 campaign season was first getting underway.
The Trump Foundation has since effectively ceased operations under the weight of an investigation into possible mishandling of funds.
The funds it got from Victor Pinchuk in September 2015 totaled $150,000 and were delivered in connection to a brief video appearance Trump made at a policy conference in Ukraine backed by Pinchuk.
The funds were “solicited,” according to The Times, by the president’s lawyer Michael Cohen himself, although Cohen didn’t deal directly with Pinchuk. Instead, Cohen reportedly made his direct pitch for the funds to Doug Schoen, described by The Times as a “veteran political consultant” who works with Pinchuk.
The president was reportedly not personally involved in the negotiations over the payment; rather, Cohen followed up the initial negotiations between Trump and Schoen over the appearance with his request for the money.
This set-up calls to mind what the Trump team claims to have happened in the case of the payment that Michael Cohen delivered to Stormy Daniels. According to both Cohen and Trump, the president knew nothing of the payment. That claim has been widely disputed and is currently being tested in court.
As for the $150,000 payment from Pinchuk, the report about the special counsel paying special attention comes after The Times already revealed that Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents covering dealings with foreign nationals. In response to that subpoena, the president’s business handed over documents covering the donation from Pinchuk.
As for Pinchuk himself, he hardly comes from a political lineage to be proud of; he’s the son-in-law of former Ukrainian leader Leonid Kuchma who, in the description of The Times, “led a government criticized for corruption, nepotism and the murder of dissident journalists.”
Trump made his September 2015 appearance at an installment of the Yalta European Strategy conference, speaking for about 20 minutes in an appearance that was marked as much for his fumbling as it was for anything else.
This Monday, the president again reiterated his innocence in the Russia scandal in the face of the aforementioned FBI scrutiny of Cohen.
The Cohen raid was carried out as a matter distinct from that of the special counsel’s main Russia investigation, although the special counsel has extended his investigation to include questions of corrupt foreign influence beyond just that of Russia.
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