- A whistleblower who leaked financial documents related to Michael Cohen did so because files about Cohen were missing from a government database.
- That revelation came via a New Yorker interview published on Wednesday, in which the whistleblower, a career law-enforcement official, claimed two missing Suspicious-Activity Reports (SAR) indicate Cohen pulled down millions more dollars through his shell company than originally reported last week.
- That shell company is Essential Consultants, LLC, which Cohen set up in October 2016 to issue a $130,000 payment as part of a nondisclosure agreement with an adult-film star who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump.
- After Trump’s election, Cohen solicited corporations for “consulting” gigs and funneled large sums of money from those firms through Essential Consultants, LLC.
A whistleblower who leaked financial information about Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen’s finances to the media did so because files about Cohen were missing from a government database, sparking concerns about a potential cover-up, according to a new report from The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow.
Farrow spoke to the law-enforcement official who leaked the documents, and who has not been publicly identified.
The documents in question are Suspicious-Activity Reports (SARs) filed by a bank used by Cohen, First Republic Bank. There are believed to be three of these reports written — but the official was only able to find one of them in FINCEN, a database operated by the Treasury Department, the report said.
This absence was unusual, the official reportedly said: “I have never seen something pulled off the system. … That system is a safeguard for the bank. It’s a stockpile of information. When something’s not there that should be, I immediately became concerned.”
In response, The New Yorker’s source took the decision to leak the one available SAR to the media. It has sparked a string of damaging headlines about Cohen and how Trump’s lawyer and so-called fixer sought payments from companies following Trump’s 2016 election, apparently for consulting work — including AT&T and pharma giant Novartis.
The two SARs that the whistleblower couldn’t find detail larger quantities of money being paid to Cohen, according to the report: One for “a little over a million dollars” and another for “suspect transfers totaling more than two million dollars.”
The official is reportedly worried that the documents are “being withheld from law enforcement,” though another possibility is that they may have been restricted due to their contents, potentially at the request of special counsel Robert Mueller — though sources told The New Yorker such a move would be highly unusual.
Either way, the reported existence of two additional SARs suggests there may be further revelations to come about Michael Cohen’s financial activities.
Washington Post columnist and former US Treasury Department official, Daniel Drezner reacted to the revelations on Wednesday evening: “As someone who worked at Treasury on anti-money laundering activities, my reaction to this Ronan Farrow story is holy s–t,” Drezner wrote.
— Daniel W. Drezner (@dandrezner) May 16, 2018
Funneling money through Essential Consultants LLC
Cohen set up the shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, in October 2016 to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to the adult-film star, Stormy Daniels, who claimed she had an affair with Trump a decade prior.
Shortly after Trump won the presidential election in November that year, Cohen solicited large sums of money from corporations, with various promises of access and insight on Trump.
The telecom giant AT&T and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis are among the companies that contracted Cohen’s services, for which AT&T paid Cohen $600,000 and Novartis paid him $1.2 million.
Other companies Cohen reached out to declined his offers.
News of Cohen’s solicitations put an unflattering light on his post-election activities and raised some ethics questions about the use of his existing relationship with Trump for personal financial gain.
Cohen is currently the subject of a criminal investigation via the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York. The FBI raided his properties last month..