With Cohen Prison-Bound, Michael Avenatti’s Not Done Throwing Punches

FILE – In this Thursday, May 10, 2018 file photo Michael Avenatti, is interviewed in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Some seven months before Michael Cohen’s three-year prison sentence, Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti tweeted out a report accusing President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” of committing bank fraud. Now that Cohen has admitted to that charge in court – and making illegal hush money payments to Daniels – Avenatti exuded his characteristic confidence in a telephone interview sharing his next set of predictions.

“With each passing day, my client Stormy Daniels and I feel more and more vindicated,” Avenatti said in a wide-ranging interview. “If you look at my track record of predictions over the last 10 months in connection with this case, I think it’s either perfect or very close to perfect, and there’s been a number of big predictions. And I hope my streak continues.”

Almost entirely corroborated in short order, the seven-page report that Avenatti released back in May has proven prescient and relevant in the wake of Cohen’s sentencing. The report disclosed for the first time that Cohen used the shell company Essential Consultants LLC to pay $130,000 to keep Daniels from revealing her alleged affair with Trump. Cohen has since admitted that in federal court.

Less widely reported, Avenatti alleged Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg poured money into that same shell company within 75 days after the payment to Daniels. This detail has taken on a newfound significance in wake of reports that federal prosecutors have been investigating foreign money spilling into Trump’s inauguration. 

“All the chickens are coming home to roost,” Avenatti tweeted after the Wall Street Journal broke news of the probe.

Both the Journal and the New York Times reported that the investigations arose out of the raid on Cohen’s properties and that prosecutors have been looking into a “prominent Ukraine oligarch” who attended Trump’s inauguration.

“I do believe that it is Vekselberg,” Avenatti said, referring to a report by Times that Ukrainian-born oligarch attended Trump’s inauguration as the guest of his cousin, following a donation of $250,000.

A reference to this cousin, New York-based  Andrew Intrater, also appears in Avenatti’s report in a section about “suspicious financial transactions” of about $500,000. 

“Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (‘Columbus’) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017,” Avenatti’s report said.

Avenatti noted that Cohen has been forced to pay exactly that amount in a judgment for lying to a bank to obtain a home equity loan.

“The timing of the funds I think would be interesting in that initial payment would have been made from the home equity line, but then it appears the next monies funded into that account to reimburse that would have come from Vekselberg,” he said.  

As reported by the Journal, Trump’s inaugural committee raked in more than double the previous record set by Barack Obama, with the heaviest donors including casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, AT&T and Boeing.

Along with Novartis, AT&T was one of the corporations that quickly apologized in the wake of Avenatti’s report that exposed its financial ties with Cohen in May.

Michael Cohen walks out of federal court, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, in New York. Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia. He told the judge he lied about the timing of the negotiations and other details to be consistent with Trump’s “political message.” (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

“What I was trying to expose was the fact that Michael Cohen was utilizing various vehicles to sell influence to various entities and to sell access to the president of the United States,” Avenatti said. “I said at the time that I thought that when all of the records and evidence came out, that it would be shown that Michael Cohen did not do this on his own. And that Donald Trump knew what was going on, and participated in it and approved it.”

Four days before Avenatti’s report from May, the Times disclosed for the first time that special counsel Robert Mueller questioned Vekselberg in a New York-area airport in connection with their investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. 

On Thursday, the Times reported that federal prosecutors in New York are now looking into Trump inaugural donations from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. 

On this subject, Avenatti referred to a mysterious tweet that he fired off this past Mother’s Day.

“Warning ignored,” Avenatti wrote on May 13. “So here it goes.”

In his tweet, Avenatti released photographs of Cohen, Michael Flynn and Qatari banker Ahmed al-Rumaihi in the lobby of Trump Tower.

“Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?” Avenatti asked in a follow-up tweet.

At the time, Avenatti had been fighting bitterly with Cohen’s legal team in and outside of federal court, where they were involved in a discovery dispute over the files seized from Cohen’s properties. Cohen’s attorneys Stephen Ryan and Todd Harrison labeled Avenatti’s May report “a toxic mix of disinformation,” but they only appeared to locate isolated cases of mistaken identity in transactions involving a different Michael Cohen from Toronto, Canada.

“This is a guy that lied for months, called me a liar, called my client a liar, sent surrogates out like David Schwartz to degrade us, to basically argue that up was down and down was up,” Avenatti said, referring to Cohen. “And now all of that was shown to be an absolute fabrication, and lie after lie after lie.”

Cohen is currently represented by attorney Guy Petrillo, who did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.

Despite apologizing to his sentencing judge, his family and the U.S. public, Cohen was notably silent on the subjects of Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal – the women whose stories he delayed from being told.

“I find it despicable that he hasn’t apologized to my client yet for his conduct, and he’s still coordinating with Donald Trump in the sense of the civil litigation that we have,” Avenatti said, referring to his ongoing legal fight over the $778,000 a federal judge ordered him to pay in a defamation suit in California.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicolas Roos slammed what he called Cohen’s “selective cooperation” at his sentencing this week, and Avenatti opined that Cohen has been holding back for fear of more criminal liability.

“I’ve said all along that this guy knows where all the bodies are buried and that he would be the downfall of Donald Trump, and I think that is what we’re witnessing,” Avenatti said.

The Los Angeles-based attorney will be heading back to federal court in Manhattan on Monday, when trial begins for his latest client: Statue of Liberty climber Therese Patricia Okoumou, who scaled the landmark to protest the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

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