Laundering mistress payoff money isn’t officially an area of legal specialization, nevertheless it is Michael Cohen’s metier. Remember the smoking gun of Watergate, where Woodward and Bernstein found a $25,000 deposit made with campaign funds put into the bank account of one of the Watergate burglars? Michael Avenatti has found something similar. Vanity Fair:
Indeed, Avenatti is now alleging that he has evidence of bank fraud involving Michael Cohen, which he has almost certainly shared with the F.B.I. And the F.B.I. may soon respond in kind: “We expect to have access to at least some of what was seized at some point in the near future,” he added. (The Department of Justice declined comment.) And what might that yield? Avenatti’s preferred scenario is that it would cough up proof that Trump not only knew about Cohen’s payments to Daniels and other women, but compensated Cohen from campaign funds. But he believes the true smoking gun is a so-called Suspicious Activities Report (S.A.R.) reportedly created by the Treasury Department earlier this year after a bank is reported to have flagged Cohen’s account for dubious transactions. (The Treasury Department and First Republic Bank did not provide a comment to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story, while Cohen called it “fake news.”) “That is a critical document at this juncture of the case,” said Avenatti. If such a report existed it could very well describe a narrative of events in which monies were moved from bank account to bank account in an effort to cover up campaign payments to Trump’s alleged mistresses. “The importance of that document cannot be overstated,” he said.
Follow the money is an axiom because it is so tried and true. Here, it may be the reason that Trump’s lawyer, Charles Harder threatened to sue Stormy Daniels for $20Million alleging breach of the NDA; it’s an attempt to shut down the money trail. Harder’s lawsuit may have been a bluff because it has never materialized but Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels filed suit in March and Michael Avenatti intends to depose Donald Trump. “Obviously we’re going to ask what he knew and when he knew it and who he talked to,” said Avenatti.
Avenatti expects a ruling on the deposition by Judge James Otero in the first two weeks of May and, bold as ever, he’s putting the odds of success at “better than 50 percent—especially if Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen continue to engage in the mistakes that they have made over the last five or six weeks.” If Trump refuses to a court order to face a deposition, “that would set off a constitutional crisis,” he said, citing the landmark Supreme Court case of Clinton v. Jones, in which Bill Clinton’s attempt to rebuff Paula Jones’s sexual harassment case established that sitting presidents could be prosecuted in civil court for acts before or during their time in office.
Avenatti argues that what makes him particularly “dangerous” for Trump is that he is unconstrained by political considerations, like White House pressure on the F.B.I. or Robert Mueller—which explains why Cohen’s lawyer has tried filing for a stay of the lawsuit, arguing that Daniels’s case should be put on ice in light of the F.B.I. raids last week. “He wants the judge to pause our case pending the criminal investigation,” said Avenatti. “He wants to slow the case down because he realized the potential liability in our case.”
Meanwhile, in light of the FBI raid on his home and office, Michael Cohen’s lawyers have moved for a stay and that motion will be decided today in Los Angeles. Avenatti’s argument is that Cohen hasn’t proved enough of a relationship between the Daniels case and the FBI investigation to warrant a stay. Further, Cohen’s lawyers argue that he should be free to plead the fifth amendment and Avenatti’s response to that is that Cohen gave up that right when he spoke to CNN right after the raid, to date one of the stupidest moves that Cohen has made. “Mr. Cohen made the choice to make these public statements with full knowledge of the raids; he cannot now refuse cross-examination,” Avenatti said.
Plus, Avenatti has an opinion on Cohen’s chance of saving himself via presidential pardon.
Avenatti calls it “a false hope.” For one, Trump has demonstrated loyalty to almost no one; but also, Cohen could just as well be tried on the state level, in New York, where Cohen is a resident and Trump’s federal pardoning powers are null and void. “He could be charged on the state level and prosecutors have wide-ranging discretion as it relates to charging decisions,” Avenatti said.
Cohen is finished. This was foreshadowed recently by Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying, “I believe they’ve still got some ongoing things but the president has a large number of attorneys, as you know.” It’s deja vu and soon Cohen will be relegated to the shadows like Bannon, Papadopoulos and the others, “he wasn’t with me that long,” “he was a minor operative” and so forth. Maybe Trump will say that Cohen made a great cup of coffee.