Toxic Taxi Medallion Loans and Bribery Charges, Melrose Credit Union

CEO of credit union that made toxic taxi medallion loans charged with accepting bribes

The CEO of a now-shuttered credit union was charged Thursday with accepting bribes from a taxi mogul in exchange for refinancing over $60 million in loans — the latest sign of a crackdown on a predatory industry accused of driving some cabbies to suicide.

Alan Kaufman ran Melrose Credit Union, which was one of the largest lenders of taxi medallion loans until it was closed last year. Among its many clients was President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The new indictment appears to stem from charges brought by the watchdog National Credit Union Administration against Kaufman last year of unsafe business practices and “personal dishonesty.” Kaufman secretly took bribes from a taxi mogul, Tony Georgiton, as well as an unidentified media company, which sought more advertising from Melrose, according to the indictment.

The National Credit Union Administration’s charges identified the media company as CBS radio.

Both Kaufman and Georgiton face criminal charges for their alleged self-dealing,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.

Kaufman, 60, faces bribery charges that carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. He was released on $1 million bond. Georgiton, who has reportedly leased cabs to as many as 2,000 drivers through his company, Queens Medallion, also faces up to 30 years for alleged bribery of a financial institution officer. He was released on $500,000 bond.

The indictment claims that Kaufman lived rent-free for two years in Georgiton’s Long Island home starting in 2010. The following year he allegedly persuaded the credit union’s board to purchase the naming rights for a ballroom in Queens for $2 million. The “Melrose Ballroom” was owned by a company controlled by Georgiton, according to the indictment.

Meanwhile, Kaufman personally approved the refinancing of $60 million in loans to Georgiton’s company without disclosing its ties to Melrose’s board, according to the indictment.

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Busy Trying to See the Trump in All Evil – Overlooking the Opportunists and Manipulators – Intrater, Vekselberg, Renova Group, Cohen, Sater…

Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen Called CEO Tied to Russian Oligarch Hundreds of Times, According to FBI

Michael Cohen exchanged hundreds of phone calls with an executive tied to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, according to newly unsealed federal search warrants that show the two sides were closer than either previously admitted.

Columbus Nova CEO Andrew Intrater and Cohen exchanged 320 phone calls and 920 text messages beginning on Election Day 2016, according to the warrants pursued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Columbus Nova paid Cohen $500,000 for consulting work for what the company called “potential sources of capital and potential investments.” Intrater introduced Cohen to his cousin and business associate, the billionaire industrialist Viktor Vekselberg. Cohen was even added to Columbus Nova’s office security list.

The chatter between Cohen and Intrater was part of the network of relationships between Russian-linked interests and the former lawyer to President Trump.

Cohen’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests to comment for this story. Intrater’s spokesperson downplayed the significance of the thousand-plus conversations between the two men.

“They were working together so of course texted and called each other. This was all known and investigated, and wasn’t even deemed worthy of being included in the Special Counsel’s report,” the spokesperson told The Daily Beast.

Intrater’s company, Columbus Nova, is an American-based asset management firm that counts as its biggest client the Renova Group, a company controlled by Vekselberg. Through Renova, Vekselberg owns interests across the world, including a minority stake in aluminum company Rusal, which was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2018 for allegedly profiting from Russia’s “malign activities.” Vekselberg himself was sanctioned at the same time.

A source familiar previously told The Daily Beast that Vekselberg used Intrater as a “cut-out” for his access to Cohen—a claim Intrater and Vekselberg’s representatives strenuously deny to this day.

“The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue,” Richard Owens of the law firm Latham & Watkins previously said in a statement. “Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

On its website, Columbus Nova insists that it is “an investment management company solely owned and controlled by Americans.” However, Securities and Exchange Commission filings from last year describe Columbus Nova as “the U.S.-based investment and operating arm of Mr. Vekselberg’s Renova Group of companies.”  

Cohen was not paid directly by Columbus Nova, according to the warrants, but rather by a subsidiary known as Renova U.S. Management. The money was “wired through” Columbus Nova and the government said it was investigating why. It’s unknown if a conclusion was reached.

Vekselberg and Intrater met Cohen at least twice around the time he was hired by Columbus Nova, which has invested in numerous American media and technology firms, including Gawker Media, streaming-music pioneer Rhapsody, and a company called Tomfoolery Incorporated.

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ADDITIONAL READING:

Unsealed Mueller docs reveal new details of Cohen probe

 

FBI search warrants detail Michael Cohen Russia ties

 

Sater Eyed Trump Moscow Tower to Launder Cash, BTA Bank Says

 

Federal court unseals Michael Cohen search warrants, further detailing his Russian ties

First We are Victims of Fraud, Arson, Money Laundering THEN… We are Taxed for Otisville’s Jewish bend…

Michael Cohen’s Prison of Choice: Well-Known to Jewish Offenders

The minimum-security camp at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, N.Y., has become an enclave for Jewish white-collar offenders.CreditCreditTom Bushey/Middletown Times Herald Record, via Associated Press

When Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer, was sentenced last month to three years in federal prison on fraud charges, he had the right to request any number of prison camps favored by white-collar offenders for their relatively resort-like settings.

But Mr. Cohen chose a shabby, low-slung building 75 miles northwest of New York City, with an antiquated weight room, an uneven tennis court and no swimming pool.

What the minimum-security camp at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, N.Y., does offer is a rarity in the federal prison system: a full-time Hasidic chaplain who oversees a congregation of dozens of Jewish inmates who gather for prayer services three times a day.

“For a Jewish person, there is no place like Otisville,” said Earl Seth David, 54, a former inmate who attended kosher meals, religious classes and weekly Shabbat services in the prison shul, a shared space where the Torah scrolls are locked up every night

“As a Jew, there’s no other prison you can get services like that.”

Otisville’s camp has long been the lockup of choice among Jewish white-collar offenders, including Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly who was convicted on federal corruption charges. Mr. Silver, who is free on bail pending an appeal, has requested to serve his seven-year sentence at the camp.

Otisville is also one of the closest federal lockups to New York City, making it attractive to non-Jewish convicts as well, including Dean Skelos, the former New York State Senate majority leader who reported to the camp this month to begin his four-year sentence on bribery and other charges. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, the reality star from “Jersey Shore,” recently arrived at the camp, to serve a sentence for tax evasion.

The camp — which sits near Otisville’s main prison, a much larger medium-security lockup — has a population of about 120 inmates, including drug dealers and other street-level criminals with good prison records.

But most inmates are Jewish — many of them orthodox and Hasidic — and many are doctors, lawyers, accountants and businessmen who committed fraud.

A few also have backgrounds as ordained rabbis and, once inside, some assume a spiritual leadership role. Inmates periodically hold an informal vote to elect a “gabbai” to run the shul, which is currently led by a Hasidic man from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who is locked up for arson and corporate fraud.

There is never a problem reaching a minyan, or a quorum of at least 10 Jews needed to hold services, at the camp, where inmates live communally in dorm-style housing units and sleep in bunk beds.

Orthodox inmates wear fringed vests known as zizit under their green prison uniforms. Prison work shifts are scheduled around daily prayer sessions and Sabbath observances. Before many holidays, the men are taken by prison bus to a nearby town for traditional mikvah baths.

The list of prominent people at Otisville reduced to doing menial prison jobs is long.

Ken Starr, a money manager who siphoned millions from his celebrity clients, wiped down mess hall tables during his stay, and Walter Forbes, an executive charged with securities fraud, mopped floors, according to former inmates. Hassan Nemazee, an investment banker and political bundler associated with the Clintons, cleaned the bathrooms while serving time for bank fraud.

The federal prison camps are not available to certain offenders, like those with sentences of more than 10 years. So Bernie Madoff, who received 150 years for his Ponzi scheme, had his request for Otisville denied.

Messages left for prison officials at Otisville were not returned, and Bureau of Prisons officials would not provide any specific information on Jewish services at the camp.

Over the years, federal officials have “sort of carved this place out as a special location to put Jewish inmates,” said Benjamin Brafman, a prominent defense lawyer who has represented numerous defendants who have requested Otisville.

here are kosher vending machines in the visiting room. The prison commissary sells skullcaps for $6 and offers a kosher selection that includes matzo, gefilte fish, rugelach and seltzer.

“Hey, it’s not Zabar’s, and it’s a little overpriced,” said one former inmate, Lawrence Dressler, 52. “But what do you want? It’s prison.”

While kosher meals — three a day — come in prepackaged trays, inmates make Sabbath and holiday meals from scratch in the small kosher kitchen, to be eaten in the shul on tables with bedsheets as tablecloths.

“You feel like you’re back home, singing Shabbos songs with the other inmates,” Mr. Dressler recalled. “The camaraderie helps take you away from the place for a little while.”

With limited ingredients, inmates devise innovative ways to make Passover Seder meals featuring kosher chicken, handmade matzo, horseradish and grape juice.

They often repurpose food from prepackaged meals and supplement it with food smuggled out of the kitchen or supply room, said Jeff Weisman, 46, who served time in the camp on mail fraud charges and worked in the kosher kitchen.

For Sukkot, inmates assemble a large wooden sukkah shelter outside to sit and eat meals in.

The camp has little in the way of fences or bars, and for observant Jewish inmates, it is “the closest thing you have to nirvana in a federal prison,” said Joel A. Sickler, a criminologist and consultant who advises mostly white-collar offenders facing prison sentences.

But Mr. David said it was no picnic.

“That Club Fed stuff is a myth,” said Mr. David, a lawyer from Manhattan who served four years in seven federal prisons, including Otisville, on immigration fraud charges. “There’s no swanky pool. You’re up at 6 a.m. every morning for the inmate count. The guards can raid your bunk at any time and you get zero rights, zero privacy. You’re sleeping next to 100 snoring men. So being able to practice your faith helps you survive.”

Mr. David added: “The religious services always come first. With other prisons, it’s just the opposite.”

Many inmates “knew the Talmud inside and out,” said Mr. Dressler, a lawyer in New Haven who served 18 months in Otisville for mortgage fraud.

They often conducted religious classes and gained inmate followings, as did a Hasidic rabbi from Brooklyn who got caught up in mortgage fraud before the 2008 housing market crash.

Then there was the Syrian rabbi from Deal, N.J., who was involved in a money-laundering scheme and whose parables were particularly enjoyed by Russian Jewish inmates from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, who were in prison for health care fraud.

Another spiritual leader was Naftali Tzi Weisz, the grand rabbi of the Spinka sect of Hasids in Brooklyn, who was locked up for a charity donation scheme.

A lawyer for Mr. Cohen did not respond to messages, and it is still uncertain whether Mr. Cohen will wind up at Otisville. The federal judge in his case has agreed to recommend he be assigned there, but the decision is ultimately made by the Bureau of Prisons, which is under the Department of Justice.

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Fear and Manipulation – Michael Cohen’s Predicament

TRUMP MADE COHEN AFRAID FOR HIS COUNTRY AND FAMILY, WOULDN’T ACCEPT A PARDON, LAWYER SAYS

 

Michael Cohen has taken “ownership” of his illegal actions because “he feared for his country and his family,” attorney Lanny Davis said on Sunday.

Speaking on CBS News’ Face the Nation, Davis, who represented President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, highlighted the motivation behind his client’s guilty plea. Cohen’s attorney said that the former Trump lawyer had cooperated with investigators due to a “genuine transformation.”

“Michael Cohen is now taking ownership in his statement to the court of his personal responsibility for his behavior when he worked for Donald Trump,” Davis explained. “Now that he saw Donald Trump as president, he underwent a genuine transformation because he feared for his country and his family,” he said.

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Former Attorney to Michael Cohen @LannyDavis says Cohen “wouldn’t take a pardon from Donald Trump if it was handed to him.”

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Davis also said that his client had authorized him on several occasions to refuse any pardon from Trump, if it was offered. The attorney also pushed back against the president’s and his legal teams’ attacks against Cohen, often attempts to paint his client as a liar.

“Let’s remember that Michael Cohen has corroborating evidence for everything that he has said,” David pointed out. “Mr. [Robert] Mueller [who is leading the special investigation in Trump and his associates] certainly does,” he added.

On Wednesday, Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including lying to Congress.

“Today is one of the most meaningful days of my life. The irony is that today I get my freedom back,” Cohen said during his sentencing hearing. “Blind loyalty to this man [Trump] led me to choose a path of darkness over light,” he added.

A sentencing memo for Trump’s ex-lawyer implicated the president in leading a criminal conspiracy, which involved paying off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal using campaign funds. Analysts have also speculated that evidence provided by Cohen could reveal new details that link Trump or members of his campaign team to collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.

GettyImages-1066359714Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, exits federal court on November 29 in New York City DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Dozens of individuals and several companies have been indicted by Mueller’s team in the ongoing probe. None have been charged for colluding with Russia, but various other crimes have been uncovered. Mueller’s final report is expected soon, and the most recent conviction of Cohen has led many politicians to suggest the president could be impeached, or even criminally indicted and jailed.

With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in January, they are expected to ramp up pressure on the White House. Republican leaders of the current House Judiciary Committee had appeared reluctant to push for a thorough investigation into the president’s alleged crimes, but that’s all expected to change with new leadership.

Michael Cohen and the Credit he Deserves – Not to be Beholden

Inline image

Lanny Davis and Michael Cohen. (Photos: Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images – Mary Altaffer/AP)

Michael Cohen would refuse a pardon from Trump, his former lawyer says

Veteran political consultant and attorney Lanny Davis said that his embattled advisee Michael Cohen is taking personal responsibility for his bad behavior and would refuse any pardon offered by President Trump.

Davis was Cohen’s attorney last summer when he pleaded guilty to fraud and violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels. Cohen, who was Trump’s personal attorney for many years, was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday.

On “Face the Nation” Sunday, Davis was asked what he thought of Trump calling Cohen a “Rat” earlier that morning for cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“That’s the language of a mobster, not of the president,” Davis replied. “But Michael Cohen took ownership and personal responsibility for lying and he’s going to jail as a consequence and he authorized me, several times, to say he wouldn’t take a pardon from Donald Trump if it was handed to him,” Davis said.

Davis told the show’s moderator, Margaret Brennan, that they never discussed the possibility of taking a presidential pardon. He said that Cohen has corroborating evidence for everything he disclosed to Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election.

“So, Michael Cohen is now taking ownership in his statement to the court of his personal responsibility for his behavior when he worked for Donald Trump,” he continued. “Now that he saw Donald Trump as president he underwent a genuine transformation because he feared for his country and his family when Donald Trump was president.”

Davis also took issue with Trump’s claim that federal agents had broken into Cohen’s office and residences in New York in April. He said Cohen consented to the search and even thanked the federal agents for their courtesy as they left. Cohen later described the agents to CNN as “extremely professional, courteous, and respectful.”

“You have a president denouncing the FBI, lying about a warrant in a legal search, and he’s the top law enforcement officer of the country and who does he praise? He praises his people who have lied and refused to cooperate. The opposite of what a president should do,” he said.

Davis said there are some questions he cannot answer publicly as Cohen’s former lawyer and current adviser because he does not want to “get in front of Mr. Mueller’s findings.” He urged the public to exercise patience so that Mueller’s investigation isn’t compromised or hindered.

However, he did point out that the sentencing memo by Mueller described the information provided by Cohen as important to the investigation, as it relates to Trump’s attempts to build a large project in Moscow, and contacts with Russian officials.

“There’s a lot in the Mueller memo that tells you how forthcoming, for 70 hours in seven meetings, Michael Cohen was with Mr. Mueller.”

Michael Cohen, Hush Money and…

Michael Cohen: ‘Of course’ Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong

Michael Cohen: 'Of course' Trump knew hush-money payments were wrong

 

Michael Cohen exits the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse on Wednesday in New York. (Alec Tabak / for New York Daily News)

Michael Cohen says “of course” President Trump was aware that hush-money payments to two women ahead of the 2016 election were wrong — and that the secret payments were arranged due to Trump’s election fears.

“Nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” Trump’s former lawyer told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in his first interview since being sentenced Wednesday for a range of crimes.

 

Cohen has admitted to arranging the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the presidential election — and implicated the President in the process.

“He directed me to make the payments, he directed me to become involved in these matters,” he said Friday.

The 52-year-old “fixer” said his former mentor was “very concerned with how this would affect the election” if the alleged affairs came to light.

 

Cohen said he acted out of “blind loyalty” to Trump.

While prosecutors from the Southern District of New York have not charged Trump, they have made clear they believe Cohen’s claims that he worked “in coordination and at the direction” of the President to pay off McDougal and Daniels, who both claimed to have had trysts with the former reality TV host a decade earlier.

 

Trump is apparently referred to in court documents as “individual one.”

 

 

Cohen, 52, was given a three-year prison sentence Wednesday for a “veritable smorgasbord offraudulent conduct” that includes the hush-money payments as well as bank fraud, lying to Congress and tax evasion.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong,” Cohen told Stephanopoulos. “I stood up before the world and I accepted the responsibility for my actions.” Trump — who initially claimed he didn’t know about the payments and has denied the affairs — is now denying that they were campaign contributions and tweeted Thursday that he “never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.”

 

Cohen countered that claim.

 

“I don’t think there’s anybody that believes that. First of all, nothing at the Trump Organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump,” he said. “He directed me as I said in my allocution.”

 

The embattled barrister also said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team — investigating the Trump campaign and administration’s Russia ties — possess a “substantial amount of information” that corroborates Cohen’s statements.

 

Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about his work on a possible Trump real estate project in Moscow and said he did so to be consistent with Trump’s “political messaging.”

 

Those charges were brought by Mueller’s office.

 

Investigators for the special counsel’s office also found that Cohen was in contact with a Russian national during the lead up to the 2016 election who offered to establish “political synergy” with Trump’s campaign.

 

The former fixer said he is continuing to cooperate with investigators.

On the same day that Cohen was sentenced, the Southern District of New York announced it had reached a non-prosecution deal with American Media Inc., the publisher of National Enquirer, in which AMI “admitted that it made the $150,000 payment in concert with (Trump’s) presidential campaign, and in order to ensure that (McDougal) did not publicize damaging allegations about the candidate before the 2016 presidential election.

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Michael Cohen and a Plea Deal, Trump’s Potential “Catastrophe” that Someone May Hope to Put to Rest

download (10)Protecting Michael Cohen, Those Looking for Somewhat Cagey Information

To Our Readers: 

The greatest ally of the ethically challenged is an attorney with equally questionable ethics. He is likely the most dangerous person to that client if he decides to start divulging the content of his files. If Michael Cohen can turn on one he may turn on others, a slippery slope for all of his clients. He placed himself in an untenable position.

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime fixer, former personal attorney and confidant, pleaded guilty on Thursday to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation in a new deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

LostMessiah has covered the activities of several Russian oligarchs connected in one way or another to 45, generally maintaining a safe distance from formulating those links. We have also managed to uncover information in most of our research long before law enforcement, largely a credit to our sources.

This morning we were advised that there is at least one person looking to uncover the moment by moment whereabouts of Mr. Cohen, for reasons about which we can only speculate. The tip we received did not ask why this information was being sought nor does he or she likely want to know. He or she prefers to remain anonymous.

We make no speculation about who was behind the request for the information, only that it was made.

We leave the rest in the hands of those with far higher pay grades. 

 

 

ARTICLES RE: MICHAEL COHEN

ABC News:   Michael Cohen pleads guilty to lying to Congress in new deal with Mueller in Trump-Russia probe

USA Today: Michael Cohen, Donald Trump and Russia: Prosecutors document series of lies by president’s former fixer

New York Daily News: Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, admits to lying to Congress in new plea deal with Mueller

 

Michael Cohen’s deal is an outright catastrophe for Trump — and he knows it

Supposed mastermind Donald Trump made an enemy out of a longtime loyalist. Now he’s going to pay the price

Last June, after Michael Cohen pled guilty to a number of federal crimes, including paying hush money on behalf of the president of the United States, he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that he wanted to “do the right thing for his family.” I wrote at the time that Cohen seemed to be contemplating becoming the John Dean of the Trump Russia scandal, quoting Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox reporting that people were coming up to Cohen on the street saying he could be a hero if he stepped up and told the truth.

No one really expected him to do that at the time. After all, Cohen had famously said he’d take a bullet for Trump. But it turned out that for all his loyalty, it wasn’t reciprocated. Trump had a fit when the feds served their search warrant on Cohen’s office but almost immediately turned on his old friend, behaving as if he hardly knew him. In truth, Trump had treated Cohen like a lackey for years, denying him respect and refusing to bring him into the White House despite Cohen’s obvious wish to be treated like a member of the family.

Looking at years of jail time and the loss of all your property tends to focus the mind; Cohen wised up. He realized that he had been abandoned and would have to save himself. He hired an old Washington hand, Lanny Davis, and threw himself at special counsel Robert Mueller, practically begging him for a chance to tell everything he knew about Donald Trump’s unethical and/or illegal activities. You can imagine it was a heady feeling to have that kind of power over the man he felt had betrayed him.

Mueller played hard to get. Cohen was not offered one of those cooperation agreements given to Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Indeed, prosecutors didn’t seem very interested in what he might have to say. There were sporadic reports of Cohen talking to them, but it almost seemed as if they were indulging a desperate man. That was wrong. They were listening and biding their time. On Thursday, in a move that surprised everyone — including the White House which only got a heads-up just before it happened — Cohen appeared in court and pled guilty to lying to Congress about his dealings with Trump and Russia. This is the first time that Trump has been personally connected to the Russia conspiracy in a court of law.

It was first reported back in 2017 that Trump had been negotiating a Trump Tower deal in Moscow during the first few months of the Republican primary campaign. Trump signed a letter of intent in October of 2015, but and supposedly the deal fell through that December.  Last spring Buzzfeed further reported that this negotiation had actually continued all the way through June 2016, after Trump had clinched the nomination. Cohen and Trump denied it and it seemed not to make much of an impression on the public, although it probably should have. On Thursday that story was confirmed.

It has been reported that the Trump Organization’s partner in the deal, a fascinating character named Felix Sater, who is an old friend of both Trump’s and Cohen, had bragged to Cohen that he could get to Putin. In one email, he told Cohen that “our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.” That’s an odd statement, to say the least. Until this week that was widely assumed to be just hyperbole between two buddies. As it turns out, Cohen actually dealt directly with the Kremlin, as well as with a former general with Russian military intelligence, even as his boss was cinching the Republicn presidential nomination. Cohen has now testified that he kept Trump and members of the family (assumed to be Don Jr. and Ivanka) apprised throughout the campaign about how the deal was going.

And that’s not all. Buzzfeed reported on Thursday night that the Trumps had planned to offer Vladimir Putin a $50 million “gift” of a penthouse in the new Moscow building. It’s unclear whether Trump was aware of that but you can bet they would never have followed through on such a thing without his OK. As it happens, the entire Moscow deal was abruptly canceled on the day the Democratic National Committee hack was publicly reported, just before Cohen was slated to fly to Russia, reportedly to prepare for Trump to make the same trip after the Republican convention in order to seal the deal.

Trump told the voters that he knew nothing of Russia. He said it over and over again. Yet his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was $20 million in debt to a Russian oligarch and his oldest buddy, Roger Stone, was allegedly plotting with Russian hackers and WikiLeaks to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump’s chief foreign policy adviser, Michael Flynn, was on video cozying up to Putin, and was forced to resign after it was reported that he reassured the Russian ambassador that the Trump regime would lift sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over election interference. Two other Trump aides, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, had strange ties and contacts with Russians during the campaign, and one of them is doing time in jail today for lying to the feds about it.

Now we know that Trump’s personal lawyer was secretly negotiating with the Kremlin for a Moscow Trump Tower development, even as the candidate was fawning over Vladimir Putin on the campaign trail like a moonstruck schoolgirl.

Whether or not what Trump did was technically illegal is beside the point. Trump lied to the American people about all of it — and the Kremlin knew he lied. It’s easy to imagine that Trump’s good friend Vladimir Putin may have reminded him about that in those private meetings they like so much. It’s not as sexy as some of the other rumored kompromat, but it’s got teeth.

Trump canceled his scheduled meeting with Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires this weekend. The White House has said this was because of the recent skirmishes between Russia and Ukraine. More likely Trump just didn’t want to face Putin. All this was supposed to be their little secret.

In Emily Jane Fox’s latest story about Cohen, she describes him getting into his car outside the courthouse on Thursday as a skateboarder rides by and shouts,  “Yo! That’s Michael Cohen. You’re gonna take down Trump!” Maybe if Trump had shown just a little more loyalty to his consigliere he wouldn’t be in this position. No one with Trump’s ethics should ever turn his lawyer into his enemy.