Michael Avenatti, working as a lawyer for the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who is currently engaged in a legal battle with the president’s legal team, cast a firecracker into the national political conversation on Tuesday when he revealed information about some money that had gone to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
Cohen delivered some $130,000 in hush money to Daniels covering an alleged affair between her and the president, and that arrangement — including its accompanying nondisclosure agreement — is the basis for Daniels’ present legal battle with the Trump team.
That money went through a shell company set up by Cohen, called Essential Consultants, and on Tuesday, Avenatti revealed some of the cash that made its way into Cohen’s coffers via EC in the time following the hush money payment.
Now, the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department — a man named Eric Thorson — has launched an investigation into how Avenatti got his hands on that information, according to counsel Rich Delmar. Avenatti, when pressed, declined to reveal his source, but the information he presented to the world this week led many to believe that he had obtained what are called “Suspicious Activity Reports” filed on Cohen with the Treasury Department.
Former Treasury Department legal official Daniel Stipano told The Washington Post that “hundreds, if not thousands” of officials across law enforcement and government have access to a database containing SARs.
Avenatti commented of the situation to CNN’s Anderson Cooper Tuesday as follows:
‘There’s been some criticism of our media strategy and how often I’m on CNN and how often I’ve been on your show and other networks. It’s working. It’s working in spades. Because we’re so out front on this, people send us information, people want to help our cause.’
Avenatti has indeed been active on the cable news circuit since his client’s case rose to national prominence; he has been, effectively, helped along in his efforts to hold the Trump team accountable thanks to the recent revelation of a months long government criminal investigation of Michael Cohen. News of that investigation came out shortly after the government raided Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, sparking the predictable ire of the president.
Avenatti revealed Tuesday that Essential Consultants had fostered payments totaling over a million dollars from companies like the telecommunications giant AT&T, the medical company Novartis, and an American company known as Columbus Nova associated with the currently sanctioned Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg.
Columbus Nova claimed their payments to Cohen to have been for consulting work and added an insistence that the money had no connection to Vekselberg, who attended the president’s inauguration as a guest of his cousin — the head of Columbus Nova — last year.
Avenatti’s receipt and subsequent distribution of the information concerning Essential Consultants has illuminated yet another part of the complex web in which the president and his closest allies are situated. The aforementioned criminal investigation into Cohen is one of a number of legal problems currently faced by the Trump team; others include the Russia probe and legal challenges from Daniels herself.
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