The April 10 issue of Rolling Stone features an intriguing story, “A Brief History of Michael Cohen’s Criminal Ties” by Seth Hettena, who lives in San Diego with his wife and sons. The subtitle of the article is “From the Russian mob to money launderers, Trump’s personal attroney has long been a subject of interest to federal investigators.” (Full disclosure: I don’t know Hettena, a former Associated Press reporter, but in an article in the January 3, 2008 Voice of San Diego, he called me a “bitter, angry man.” That hasn’t affected my opinion of his investigatory skills.)
The Rolling Stone article is based on an excerpt from Hettena’s book, Trump/Russia: A Definitive History, to be published by Melville House Publishing on May 8th. If the book is as good as the excerpt, it should be an eye-opening read.
In Rolling Stone, we learn that both Cohen’s father and uncle hung around the Russian Mafiya in New York. Cohen was introduced to Trump by his father-in-law, a naturalized American citizen from Ukraine. Later, Cohen was able to buy a $1 million condo at Trump World Tower in 2001, persuading his parents and Ukrainian in-laws to buy into Trump buildings. Next step: Cohen purchased a nearly $5 million unit in Trump Park Avenue. “In a five-year period, he and people connected to him would purchase Trump properties worth $17.3 million,” writes Hettena.
When Trump was running for president, reporters noticed that questions about Trump’s business or taxes would go to the chief legal officer or other staffers, “but Cohen handled questions about Russia,” says the article. One person testified to Congress that “serious questions about Donald Trump’s activities in Russia and the former Soviet Union went to Michael Cohen,” who was the only one who had information on those topics. It was well known “that Cohen’s father-in-law was funneling money into Trump ventures.”
Trump had his brand on Sunny Isles Beach condo towers in Florida. “An investigation by Reuters found that at least 63 individuals with Russian passports or addresses have bought at least $98.4 million worth of property in the seven Trump-branded properties,” says the article. A former prosecutor who “tracked the flows of Russian criminal money into Trump’s properties” told Hettena that “Trump’s genius — or evil genius — was, instead of Russian criminal money being passive, incidental income, it became a central partr of the business plan…[the Florida condo development was] not called ‘Little Moscow’ for nothing. The street signs are in Russian.”
Writes Hettena, “Cohen joined the Trump Organization around the time that the second Sunny Isles tower was being built.” An investigator said, “The Trump organization used lawyers to allow people to get money into the country.” Trump had taken a major pratfall in Atlantic City casinos. “There is no question Trump owed his [financial] comeback in large part to Russian expatriates.”
Finally, the article says that Felix Sater, the long-time Trump ally who claims he provided information to United States investigators, allegedly sent an email to Cohen in 2015, saying, “Michael I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putin’s private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin…I will get Putin in this program and we will get Donald [Trump] elected…Buddy our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer. I will get all of Putin's team to buy in on this."