Michael Avenatti makes use of every second of television time he gets, and used this morning’s appearance on the Joy Reid show (video of the appearance below) to drop a bombshell as big as any he has already made. Avenatti promised to “out” all the companies that paid big cash to Michael Cohen for access and policy to President Trump.
Avenatti notes that very quickly after the election, Michael Cohen either joined the DC power firm Patton Boggs, or at least reached an agreement to work together. Patton Boggs is not a firm that would have had anything to do with Michael Cohen, an “attorney” in title only, one with a poor education, and even worse experience. Patton Boggs culls its attorneys from the top graduates of the nation’s best law schools, from attorneys who have clerked for federal appeals court judges, and from the ranks of attorneys who have proven themselves over the years and bring a desirable portfolio. Cohen fits none of these characteristics, but he must have brought “something,” and that something is what Avenatti threatened to expose.
“It’s clear to me what he sold them,” he added. “What he sold them was a book of clients, a book of corporations or individuals that had already retained him for access to the U.S. president. That needs to be the next inquiry; what did Patton Boggs know, and when did they know it? Did they know that Michael Cohen was lobbying? Did they not know it?”
But, Avenatti is taking a cautious approach – one that I strongly support, given my reservations, already noted in a widely read column on this site, about some of the material he has already published and the legality of its source (though I do not dispute that he is right in that the public needs access to this information).
“What I’m going to say is, if folks want to continue to hide this stuff and cover it up, I think it’s fantastic. because I’m going to out them, okay?” he stated. “We’re going to out them, bring all of this stuff to light. So if you’re out there and you have stuff relating to your relationships with Michael Cohen that you have a reasonable doubt is going to come out, you should be concerned, because they are going to come out. You better come clean with the American people. You better try to get out in front of this, period.”
The real interesting and threatening part of this new revelation is the fact that Patton Boggs is within the dynamic. Patton Boggs stands to lose “bigly” if it becomes associated with a conduit of cash from Cohen’s “clients” (using the term in the loosest of manners) to the Trump administration. Patton Boggs represents some of the country’s biggest lobbying interests, and any of those interests who actually play by the rules – loose as they are – pay for access, will not want to be associated with the “pay for access” through Cohen. They will take their business elsewhere, a devastating result for Patton Boggs.
Were that Patton Boggs only problem. See, there is no law against lobbying, paying huge amounts of money, giving large amounts of money to campaigns, for “access” to express their views on policy, such as the regulatory environment, and annoying (meaning costly) regulations, regulations that may require a company to spend money treating its waste products that can hurt people who come in contact with it, as just one example. Such “pay to play” happens daily in D.C. and is blessed by Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision wrote that the mere handing of piles of cash to a political campaign does not give rise to the appearance of impropriety, that is assuming it came without an express “quid pro quo.”
The problem with Trump is that everyone knows that Trump finds a way to suck up every dollar that enters his orbit for his personal wealth. He is not a rich man – I have written on that fact, too – he merely plays one on TV by moving large amounts of cash in all directions. Trump is recklessly on the take, willing to double fees to his club in Mara Lago upon becoming president, knowing that the money goes straight to his pocket, knowing that the corruption is self-evident and in the open. The assumption is that, unlike most of Patton Boggs clients, who are paying money into PACs that do not end up enriching the politician personally, Cohen’s clients will get caught in the quid pro quo that the Supreme Court said is illegal.
The Trump administration cannot even have an inauguration and resist the temptation to skim millions of dollars off it to convert to their personal use. I just wrote about the fact that Mueller is investigating who donated the $107 million to the Trump inauguration, and where that money went – $26 million of it went to a 2-month old company owned by a friend of Melania Trump. Question: Odds that some of those millions were kicked right back to the Trumps personally? Near 100%, as Mueller surely knows.
So, Avenatti plays with live ammo, because whatever money Cohen brought to Patton Boggs to lobby Trump, likely became Trump personal money, even if it passed through Trump’s “campaign” (Trump is the only president ever to file for candidacy in the next election the day after his inauguration, and he did so expressly so that he could continue to collect money to his “campaign” – which we know near all ends up in his pocket). All of this clearly violates the law, even if it “sorta” happens every day in DC with many politicians. It does not “sorta” happen every day with politicians that so brazenly take the money personally, so brazenly “sell” policy to the highest bidder, so brazenly take money from foreign countries – illegal on its face – and are the “subject” of a special prosecutor’s investigation, and prosecution by the S.D.N.Y. US Attorney’s Office.
That is why Avenatti’s threat, and his offer to allow the companies to “out themselves,” has foreign countries, some of America’s biggest company’s, one of the nation’s most powerful law firms, and – of course – Trump himself, quaking in fear of this most recent revelation. Until now, no one knew that Patton Boggs, of all firms, has played a role as a “pass through.” This is big. This threatens much of the real swamp, and the swamp will not like it if Mueller is the one doing the cleaning.