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January 19, 2018
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One month before the 2016 presidential election, President Trump's attorney Michael Cohen set up a private company in Delaware to pay former adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence regarding alleged sexual encounters with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Journal spoke with people familiar with the matter and looked at state records showing that on Oct. 17, 2016, Cohen established Essential Consultants LLC, then used a bank account linked to the company to send $130,000 to the client-trust account of an attorney representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. In Delaware, it's easier to set up business entities and there's more privacy, with many companies choosing to hire lawyers or agents to appear on the formation documents. In this case, Cohen is listed as the "authorized person" for the company, the Journal reports.

People with knowledge of the situation said pseudonyms were used to conduct the business, with Clifford referred to as "Peggy Peterson." Records also show that on Sept. 30, 2016, Cohen started an entity in Delaware called Resolution Consultants LLC, but on Oct. 17, just two minutes after creating Essential Consultants, he dissolved Resolution Consultants, for unknown reasons. The Journal first reported last week that Cohen paid Daniels off; he denies doing so. Catherine Garcia

December 13, 2017

A forged 13-page document accusing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of sexual harassment apparently copied language from a legitimate complaint filed against recently ousted Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), The Daily Beast reports.

Axios wrote Tuesday that the fake document that was circulated to several major media companies looked like a lawsuit that had been filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It named a former Schumer staffer, who worked in his office from 2009 to 2012; when approached by Axios, the woman said that she had never seen the document before and that the claims are "completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong."

Right-wing personalities Charles Johnson and Mike Cernovich had "boasted" about the documents earlier this week, The Daily Beast writes, with Johnson posting on Facebook that "Michael Cernovich & I are going to end the career of a U.S. Senator." But upon closer inspection, there were several telltale signs that the documents had been forged:

The Conyers complaint references "House Rule 23" and a "mediation" process between Conyers and his accuser. The fake Schumer complaint also describes allegations as falling under "House Rule 23," which of course does not exist in the Senate. The "mediation" process in the Schumer document was never mentioned again. [The Daily Beast]

Cernovich now claims he was the victim of a "sophisticated forgery." Read the full scoop at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

December 4, 2017
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K.T. McFarland, President Trump's former deputy national security adviser and a member of his transition team, appeared to have misled the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on what she knew about communications between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to an email exchange obtained by The New York Times.

McFarland left her post in May and is waiting to be confirmed by the Senate as ambassador to Singapore. She appeared in front of the committee in July, and after the hearing, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked her in writing if she ever spoke directly with Flynn about his contacts with Kislyak. McFarland responded by saying that she was "not aware of any of the issues or events as described above."

The Times obtained an email dated Dec. 29 regarding sanctions imposed against Russia by the Obama administration in response to Russian meddling in the election. McFarland told another member of the Trump transition team that Flynn would be speaking with Kislyak that evening. Flynn pleaded guilty last week to lying to the FBI about his discussions with Kislyak about the sanctions. Booker told the Times the email suggests McFarland gave false testimony. "If this is the case, this is an alarming development, and another example of a pattern of deception on the part of Trump's closest associates regarding their connections and communications to Russian government officials," he added. Catherine Garcia

October 28, 2017
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The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news website, confirmed Friday it hired Fusion GPS to do research on 2016 candidates, in the process funding the beginning of the project that would eventually lead to the publication of the unverified dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele which claims to show ties between President Trump and the Russian government.

The site "had no knowledge of or connection to the Steele dossier, did not pay for the dossier, and never had contact with, knowledge of, or provided payment for any work performed by Christopher Steele," the Beacon said in a statement. "Nor did we have any knowledge of the relationship between Fusion GPS and the Democratic National Committee, [law firm] Perkins Coie, and the Clinton campaign." Representatives of the outlet have offered to testify about their work with Fusion GPS before the House Intelligence Committee.

After the Beacon stopped working with Fusion GPS, funding for the research was provided by a Perkins Coie attorney representing Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Bonnie Kristian

August 5, 2017
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Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating allegations of election manipulation collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, has asked the White House for documents pertaining to Michael Flynn, President Trump's short-tenured national security adviser, The New York Times reports. The request is not an official subpoena, but it marks the first time Mueller's probe is known to have sought information directly from the White House.

The request also indicates Mueller's investigation — which has entered a new, "more serious phase" as it now involves a grand jury — encompasses Flynn's financial dealings as well as Trump's. "We don't know exactly what these developments portend," Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas Law School professor, told The Hill, "other than that there's actually some significant criminal charges being considered." Bonnie Kristian

July 18, 2017

The newly revealed member of Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer last June was once implicated in a Russian money-laundering scheme, reporter Sarah Kendzior pointed out Tuesday. In yet another plot twist, it turns out that Ike Kaveladze, an American-based employee of Russian developers who attended the Trump Tower meeting, was targeted in an investigation in 2000 into foreigners laundering money through American banks. The New York Times wrote about it in November 2000:

A congressional inquiry has found that it is "relatively easy" for foreigners to hide their identities and form shell companies here that can launder money through American banks.

In a nine-month inquiry that subpoenaed bank records, the investigators found that an unknown number of Russians and other East Europeans moved more than $1.4 billion through accounts at Citibank of New York and the Commercial Bank of San Francisco.

The accounts had been opened by Irakly Kaveladze, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, according to Citibank and Mr. Kaveladze. He set up more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian brokers and then opened the bank accounts for them, without knowing who owned the corporations, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, which has not been made public. [The New York Times]

Kaveladze now works for Emin and Aras Agalarov, the Russian developers who hosted the 2013 Miss Universe pageant when Trump decided to bring it to Moscow. It was Emin's publicist, Rob Goldstone, who emailed Trump Jr. to set up the June 2016 meeting, promising that the lawyer had compromising information on Hillary Clinton that would boost now-President Trump's chances of winning the election.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Kaveladze's identity was requested by a "representative of Special Counsel Robert Mueller," suggesting Mueller is now investigating the Trump Jr. meeting. Becca Stanek

July 9, 2017
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President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; his then-campaign chair Paul Manafort; and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, with ties to the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign, The New York Times reported Saturday. Trump Jr. and Kushner's attorney confirmed to NBC News the meeting took place on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower in New York City.

Trump Jr. described the conversation as a "short introductory meeting" concerning a Russian adoption program. Alleged Russian election manipulation "was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by," he added. "I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand." Bonnie Kristian

June 12, 2017
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Amid mixed messages from Washington on the Saudi-led campaign to diplomatically isolate Qatar over allegations of terror sponsorship, the Qatari government has claimed its hosting of the Taliban's "political office" came in response to a U.S. request.

Qatari special envoy on counterterrorism Mutlaq Al Qahtani told Al Jazeera that Qatar permitted the Taliban to set up shop in 2013 "by request of the U.S. government" to "facilitat[e] the talks between the Americans, the Taliban, and the government of Afghanistan." The decision, he said, was part of Qatar's "open-door policy, to facilitate talks, to mediate, and to bring peace."

Al Jazeera is owned by the Qatari government and partially funded by the Qatari royal family. Qatar is also host to the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, a facility that houses 11,000 American personnel and provides a base for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Bonnie Kristian

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