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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Nothing to see here folks, nothing at all

by digby

Another long read for a lazy Saturday. This one is about Michael Cohen, Trump and the Russian Connection written by Josh Marshall:
There’s a very interesting article published this morning about Michael Cohen in Buzzfeed. Like many articles on Cohen, Trump, Russia and related matters, it’s a bit of a jigsaw piece. There’s a lot of information the full import of which is hard to make sense of without knowing a lot of other information about broader story.

Let’s review a few points.

Michael Cohen seems a lot like another Trump loudmouth lawyer. But he’s actually quite a bit more. Cohen first came to Trump’s attention and interest because of his access to capital from Ukraine and Russia and as well as from emigres from those countries. That brought Cohen – who you might have thought hadn’t the slightest connection to or even a clue about the countries of the former Soviet Union – into the Trump Organization. Cohen is also a very, very wealthy man in his own right. He has extensive real estate holdings in the New York City area – not just apartment units but entire buildings. He is also a major player in the New York City taxi business and appears to have made his first money there. Again, his business partners are emigres from Russia and Ukraine. Without saying specifically what business role Cohen has had in these area of commerce, they are ‘industries’ that are notorious for bringing money from unstable or kleptocratic parts of the world to places where it can be safely stowed.

Cohen also has family from Ukraine and his own business interests there. Cohen is married to a Ukrainian immigrant and his brother Bryan is too. They set up an ethanol business in Ukraine with family about a decade ago – just before Cohen entered the Trump Organization.

Cohen was also the intermediary who met with mafia-linked Trump business partner, Felix Sater and a Ukraine parliamentarian, Andrii Artemenko at the Loews Regency hotel in Manhattan in the first days of the Trump presidency. They were there to discuss Ukraine. Artemenko gave Cohen a sealed packet of documents to hand deliver to Michael Flynn, then still Trump’s National Security Advisor. Cohen did so, though he later claimed that he didn’t.

The dossier purportedly contained a ‘peace plan’ and documents detailing bad acts by the current leadership of the government of Ukraine. (We still do not know what was in that dossier or what became of it, though there is now ample evidence that at just this time members of the Trump entourage were trying to establish secure channels of communication to Russia.) After the meeting was first reported in The New York Times, Artemenko told Ukrainian press that he’d been discussing Ukraine with Cohen since early 2016 or possibly as early as late 2015 and indeed had known Cohen for years since back when Cohen and his family set up the ethanol business in Ukraine (roughly a decade ago).

This is more or less the story as we currently knew it in advance of this new article. Here are some of the new details.
I highly recommend that you click over to read those details. They are FASCINATING. He concludes with this:
As regular readers know, I’ve always thought this meeting was a big deal – a bigger deal than most people seem to think, even though it got a lot of attention back in February. We keep getting more information confirming what makes it seem like a big deal. As I wrote a few days ago, the meeting takes on a new significance knowing as we now do that the Trump inner circle was trying to find secure modes of communication with people in Russia at this time. Few things are as secure as hand delivered packets of paper documents. From the Buzzfeed article we now have more information confirming Artemenko’s perhaps injudicious comments about a longterm relationship with Cohen. If we were are looking for channels between the Trump Organization and people in the former Soviet Union in which a collusion may have occurred, it’s not Putin having a secret meeting with Trump at a safe house in New Jersey. It’s far more likely in settings like this. We have dossiers of physical documents, apparently a longterm discussion of the core issue on which the Kremlin wants relief from the US, what has been in the past – through Cohen and Sater – a channel of money from the countries of the former Soviet Union to Donald Trump and the Trump Organization. It seems hard to imagine that the FBI’s/Special Counsel’s Russia probe is not looking at this or, if they’re not now, soon will be.

Michael Cohen is one of Trump's closest associates. Maybe this deep and intimate connection with Ukraine is irrelevant. But under the circumstances you can't blame anyone for being suspicious.