Attorney Michael Cohen's simultaneous relationship with Donald Trump and several blue chip companies that paid him for insight into the new president strikes legal experts as unusual and has triggered questions about client confidentiality. (May 11)
President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen approached Ford shortly after Trump’s election offering his services as a consultant, but the Dearborn-based automaker told him no thanks, the Free Press learned late Friday.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is charged with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign, learned of the incident and has asked Ford for records, the Free Press was told.
Ford had no comment Friday evening. By turning down Cohen’s services, it avoided a publicity black eye suffered by AT&T and Novartis pharmaceuticals, both of which hired Cohen and have come under criticism for appearing to try to buy favor with Trump through the president’s longtime “fixer.”
Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stephanie Clifford, the adult entertainer known as Stormy Daniels, late Friday confirmed what sources told the Free Press.
“I can confirm that Mr. Cohen solicited Ford Motor Company,” he said by phone. “It was in late 2016 into ’17. On multiple occasions. There was no policy. He was trying to sell access to the president. My understanding is that it was by phone and electronic communication.”
Avenatti declined to say whether he knew if Cohen had approached other automakers.
The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the incident, said Mueller’s team has interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli, who the Journal said rejected Cohen’s offer.
Cohen’s offers of advice to major companies has come to light through Avenatti’s legal fight with Trump and Cohen on behalf of Clifford, who is suing the president to get out of a confidentiality agreement. Cohen set up a company called Essential Consultants through which he paid Clifford $130,000 to buy her silence about a sexual encounter she alleges she had with Trump in 2006.
Daniels in Detroit:
Essential Consultants, which Cohen set up shortly before making the payment to Clifford just weeks before the 2016 election, has since been tied to payments to Cohen by AT&T, Novartis and a Russian oligarch.
AT&T said Friday that hiring Cohen was a “big mistake.” In a memo to employees, CEO Randall Stephenson called the hiring a “serious misjudgment,’” and said that the company’s chief lobbyist in Washington is leaving.
AT&T’s one-year contract paid Cohen $50,000 per month.
Novartis paid Cohen $100,000 a month, but let the contract expire, company officials have said.
An American company tied to Russian Viktor Vekselberg paid $500,000 to Essential Consultants, reports have said. Vekselberg was stopped and questioned at an airport this year by investigators for Mueller.
Cohen is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan after a referral from Mueller, leading to an FBI raid of his offices and hotel room.
Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. This article includes information from the Associated Press.
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Published at Sat, 12 May 2018 12:16:11 +0000