The road has been, well, stormy, for Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer for President Donald Trump. Cohen testified before a House committee on Wednesday, and allegations ran wild. From checks for payments to Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels, to Trump’s allegedly suspicious business and personal affairs, the Cohen hearing proved to be high octane drama.
Back in August of 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight federal crimes. They included campaign finance violations related to paying Daniels as well as another payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal. The bombshell allegations in that case were that Cohen made those payments “in coordination with and at the direction of” Trump. There’s been so much to unpack with Cohen’s and Daniels’ relationship.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Michael Cohen Alleges That Donald Trump, Jr. Signed Stormy Daniels’ Check–Putting Trump Jr. in Legal Turmoil
During his hearing in front of Congress Wednesday, Cohen alleged that the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr.–his eldest–signed a check for payments to be made to Daniels. This payment would be considered illegal hush money, and would put Donald Trump Jr. in a ton of legal hot water.
As proof, Cohen presented a check allegedly signed by Trump, Jr. to the House committee hearing his case and remained emphatic about the authenticity of his presentation. If these checks to Stormy Daniels pass investigations, they could be damning.
Aside from ongoing investigations related to the Russia probe against Trump, federal prosecutors in the State of New York, are reported to have had copies of the checks. Prosecutors from New York also have other records, and have held them for months, according to reports. The check payments could have squarely violated campaign finance laws.
2. Stormy Daniels Thanked Michael Cohen After His Congressional Testimony, for Telling What She Alleges Is Truth
Since rumors have swirled around the credibility of Stormy Daniels for months, it’s no question she has battled attacks against her character. Daniels now thanks Cohen for supporting her allegations of an affair she says she had with Trump. “You spoke about how the president and his attorney put you and your family in danger by calling you a liar and a rat and disparaging you in public,” Daniels said in the above statement.
“I understand your fear, Michael. I have family too,” Daniels said. “Do you believe now that when you and the president called me a liar, when you were his attorney and you insulted me, threatened to bankrupt me and worse, that you put me and my family in danger?”
“I remember the fear,” Daniels stated further. “I still feel it. Thank you for having the courage, at long last, to begin to tell the truth. I hope that someday soon your family and mine can both leave this nightmare behind.”
Her statement of fear harkened back to her description to Anderson Cooper on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” in which she alleged that she was threatened by Trump, Cohen, and their camp.
3. Earlier This Year, Daniels Had Sued Cohen for Defamation & a Judge Dismissed Her Case
Daniels had sued Cohen for defamation, and the case had been dismissed “with prejudice”–meaning the case cannot be revived against Cohen. In the suit, Daniels had complained that Cohen made her out to be a liar by denying that she and Trump had an affair.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer said that both Daniels’ and Cohen’s legal teams asked for the claim be dismissed. “The Court already stated we received everything we asked for because Cohen and Trump were forced to admit we were right all along,” Avenatti said in a statement to CNN.
Cohen’s attorney Brent Blakely disagreed with Avenatti, telling CNN, “Today’s ruling dismissing Ms. Daniels’ defamation claim ‘with prejudice’ is a clear win for Michael Cohen. Rather than fighting in court, Ms. Daniels and her attorney instead chose to abandon the case — the legal equivalent of running away.”
He called Avenatti’s statement in favor of Daniels, mere spin. “When a plaintiff’s claim has been dismissed ‘with prejudice,’ the defendant, in this case Mr. Cohen, is the prevailing party. No amount of spin on behalf of Ms. Daniels or her attorney can alter this result,” he said. Daniels had previously filed a lawsuit against Trump for defamation, and that lawsuit was dismissed by the same judge, District Judge James Otero, according to reports.
4. Cohen Created a Company Called Essential Consultants LLC, As a Way to Quietly Pay Money to Daniels
In what might be one of the most eye-opening allegations against Cohen and Trump, reports state that Cohen created Essential Consultants LLC, as a method of paying hush money to Daniels. Essential Consultants LLC is–essentially–a shell company.
The existence of Cohen’s shell company came to light after The Wall Street Journal reported that he created Essential Consultants. The timing probably drew attention for two reasons.
One, Cohen created the company in Delaware, which is known to give a certain level of privacy to LLCs. If you’re an LLC in Delaware, you don’t have to publicly disclose the names of your managers. Two, Cohen opened the LLC just weeks before the 2016 presidential election. With strange timing and suspicious filing, Cohen’s company quickly entered national conversation.
5. Daniels Said Her Affair With Trump Began in 2006 & Continued to 2007, But Cohen (& Trump) “Aggressively Sought to Silence” Her
Daniels said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” that weeks after she’d agreed in May 2011 to sell the story of her affair to a magazine for $15,000, the magazine backed out of the agreement. Daniels said that the backtracking happened because Trump’s lawyer at the time, Cohen, had threatened to sue. Daniels stated that she was never paid that money.
In a more disturbing turn, Daniels said she and her daughter were personally threatened–and that on her way to a fitness class, a mystery man threatened her. “And a guy walked up on me and said to me, ‘Leave Trump alone. Forget the story,'” Daniels stated. “And then he leaned around and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl. It’d be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ And then he was gone.”
Daniels didn’t offer evidence of the approach, but said that she could absolutely identify the man if she ever saw him again. “If I did, I would know it right away,” she said. “100%. Even now, all these years later. If he walked in this door right now, I would instantly know.”