After a strategic data dump by the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels on Wednesday, the world learned that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney, collected millions in "consulting" fees from major U.S. and overseas corporations with business interest before the U.S. government, as well as a subsidiary of a Vladimir Putin-connected Russian company, in 2017 and 2018 — and he collected it all in the same dummy account he'd set up just before the 2016 election to pay off Daniels and other women who have alleged extramarital affairs with the commander-in-chief.
We also learned there's a national security angle to the revelations. Buckle up, you're in for quite a ride:
- Cohen created "Essential Consultants," a Delaware LLC, in October 2016, just before the election. (Delaware is famous for its corporate secrecy laws, which can help obscure the sources and flow of money.) He then used money in that account to pay $130,ooo in hush money to Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump, and $1.6 million — maybe more — to a Playboy Playmate who was reportedly impregnated by a married Republican financier... or, according to at least one emerging theory, Trump himself.
- After Trump's election, corporate money started flowing into Essential Consultants. AT&T; and the health giant Novartis confirmed to reporters that they'd hired Cohen for "insights" on policies that Trump might pursue. Cohen "contacted us after the new administration was in place," a Novartis official told NBC News. "He was promising access to the new administration." Novartis paid Cohen on a one year, $1.2 million contract.
- $150,ooo of Cohen's slush fund came from Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. for "advice on local accounting standards," which is kind of a weird buy, since they probably could have just gotten that info from their partners at Lockheed, with whom they build the T-50 jet trainer, which just happens to be in a high-stakes competition to win the Air Force's $16 billion T-X jet trainer contract — a competition Defense News calls "the Air Force’s biggest ongoing aircraft competition."
- Was Korea Aerospace trying to curry favor for its T-X bid? The company says nah; its payment to Cohen came last November, just before the T-X contract was originally slated to be awarded. In December, the Air Force officially punted that decision to later in 2018, but that was a move that seems to have predated KAI's payment to Cohen.
- In fairness to KAI, $150,ooo is not a lot of money, as Rudy Giuliani might say. I mean, it is to peons like you and me, but not to influence peddlers — and certainly not to anyone who might be looking to grease the rails at the highest levels of American government for a freaking $16 billion defense contract.
Still, anyone with a working moral compass and a modicum of foresight probably wouldn't put any money into a secret shell company run by the president's weird personal attorney and taxicab baron, who also happens to be a deputy chairman of the Republican Party's finance committee and part of the permanent cast of The Real World: Russian Campaign Collusion. Right?