AT&T’s and Novartis’s payments to Michael Cohen are definitely sketchy but maybe not illegal


It turns out Michael Cohen was using his shell company to do a lot more than pay off Stormy Daniels. He was also using it to take in hundreds of thousands of dollars from Russian oligarchs and major international corporations to — well, that’s what we don’t know. AT&T, which paid his company, Essential Consultants LLC, up to $600,000, says it was for “insights” into the Trump administration. Novartis says it was for Obamacare advice that didn’t really pan out. Korea Aerospace Industries wanted legal advice on accounting standards.

Cohen’s shell company appears to have taken in about $4.4 million in 2017 and early this year, and details about it are still scant. Worst-case scenario: The money was for something illegal. Best case: Companies and Cohen were making sleazy-looking deals for services it’s not clear Cohen was really able to deliver.

"The reason we don’t know whether there are legal violations is that if Cohen was paid to actually talk to the Trump administration on behalf of the companies, then he should have registered as a lobbyist,” Corey Goldstone, a spokesperson for the Campaign Legal Center, said. “We don’t really have hard evidence of this right now.”

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