The U.S. President's personal attorney Michael Cohen was secretly paid at least $400,000 by Ukrainians to set up talks between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko last June, the BBC reported Wednesday.
The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting for Ukraine's leader, Petro Poroshenko, the sources said, though Cohen was not registered as a representative of Ukraine as required by U.S. law.
The BBC's report comes on the heels of disclosures two weeks ago that Cohen had received previously unknown payments from drugmaker Novartis, AT&T, defense contractor Korea Aerospace Industries, and a U.S. financial management firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
The BBC's story on the Ukraine payment reported that sources said intermediaries acting on behalf of Poroshenko arranged the payment to Trump's private attorney for setting up the meeting with Trump at the White House.
The BBC said the payment to the New York lawyer was at least $400,000 for making the sit-down happen. One source told the news agency the payment was $600,000.
A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Poroshenko's administration told the BBC that Cohen's help was enlisted "because Ukrainian's registered lobbyists" and the country's embassy in Washington could not arrange more than a "brief photo-op" with Trump.
Ukraine was desperate to set up ties with the newly elected U.S. President as it battles a hostile Russia on its eastern front. Ukraine’s investigation of former Trump adviser Paul Manafort was also seen as a negative starting point with the new Trump Administration.
Here’s why this story is a very big deal:
- It suggests that Cohen broke a U.S. law requiring people to register as lobbyists for foreign governments.
- It’s the first time we’ve heard of payments to Cohen that resulted in action by the White House.
- It suggests the Trump camp received a quid pro quo—the cessation of the investigation into Manafort.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for his business dealings, as well as for a $130,000 hush-money payment he made to porn star Stormy Daniels right before the 2016 presidential election.
Daniels has said the money was given to her to keep her quiet about an affair she claims to have had with Trump in 2006. Trump, whose spokesmen have denied such an affair, reimbursed Cohen for the payment to Daniels.