Trump lead counsel Rudolph W. Giuliani continues to struggle in media appearances this weekend with a jumbled and confusing interview. Notably, while expressing his dislike for those who sell access, Giuliani was clear on one point: he likes and respects Michael Cohen. The continued public support for Cohen may reflect a desire to keep him from becoming a cooperating witness, but the professions of respect for Cohen are becoming increasingly incongruous with disclosures of how Cohen shamelessly (and successfully) sought to sell access to Trump to foreign figures and various companies like AT&T. The latest example is a payment of $580,000 from a company associated with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Cohen met with Vekselberg at Trump Tower during the transition period.
The subsidiary investment associated with Vekselberg denied that he had anything to do with the $1 million consulting contract and reported $580,000 in payments to Cohen.
Cohen is facing a wide array of alleged criminal allegations on the federal and state levels. His defense has been effectively bankrolled by AT&T as well as other companies and firms that gave him hundreds of thousands of dollars for access to Trump.
Vekselberg has close connections to Vladimir Putin and forking over $600,000 had to be based on some expectation that Cohen could deliver. The question is what.
Payments were made by Columbus Nova and its CEO Andrew Intrater insists that the meeting had nothing to do with the money. Intrater however does not explain why a lawyer with little discernible legal talent and a terrible reputation would warrant such a vast sum of money. The obvious explanation is that Intrater was one of many individuals buying access from one of the “swamp’s” most notorious bottomfeeders.
Vekselberg recently dodged reporters seeking to know why he held the meeting with Cohen, who was not a member of the campaign or the incoming Administration, and why the huge payment to Cohen.
Despite Cohen’s obvious effort to sell access, Giuliani was on the air on CNN Sunday morning expressing his personal affection for Cohen. The President’s association with Cohen has been a long controversy. It is not simply a problem in failing to sever ties with Cohen a year ago (as some of us encouraged), but ever having an association with a lawyer long-denounced as little more than a thug with a J.D. who threatened people with ruinous lawsuits. The President has continued to refer to Cohen as “a great guy” and, until recently, his lawyer. At a time when the White House should be denouncing these contracts and Cohen’s tactics, they are still expressing their respect and affection toward him.
While Giuliani is eager to call former intelligence heads “clowns” and denying that they are “civil servants,” he continues to embrace a lawyer who clipped companies for hundreds of thousands of dollars for access to Trump. While Giuliani expressed a rather weakly stated discomfort of the President over any effort to sell access, he was entirely silent on these disgraceful contracts to cash in on access to Trump.
Cohen continues to drain the White House of coherence (let alone credibility) in its public position due to the refusal to denounce his activities. This is not a case of loving the sinner while hating the sin. There has been little offered in denouncing Cohen’s sins while hoisting the sinner up as a great and likable fellow. For my part, I fail to see a redeeming, let alone a redemptive, element.