Giuliani responds to bombshell report claiming Ukraine paid Michael Cohen $400,000 for access to Trump

  • President Donald Trump’s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani, responded Wednesday to a story that outlined an alleged Ukrainian payment to Michael Cohen.
  • The BBC wrote that the payment, for at least $400,000, was to help facilitate a meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
  • Cohen denied the payment, and Poroshenko’s office blasted the story.
  • “I have to assume that maybe there was a discussion of doing this,” Giuliani said of such an arrangement between Cohen and Ukraine. “And on neither end was it consummated.”
  • Giuliani met with Poroshenko in Ukraine late last year.

In an interview with Business Insider, President Donald Trump’s outside attorney, Rudy Giuliani, responded to a bombshell report Wednesday that said Michael Cohen had received a secret payment of at least $400,000 from Ukraine to help fix talks with Trump.

Citing sources close to those involved, the BBC said the payment was set up by people acting on behalf of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer of the president, was not registered as a representative of Ukraine, which would be required under the Foreign Agents Registration Act if such a payment took place.

The BBC said the payment, which Cohen denied, was made ahead of Poroshenko’s White House visit last June. Shortly after Poroshenko returned to Ukraine, the BBC reported, the nation’s anticorruption agency pumped the brakes on its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has since been indicted in the US as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Giuliani, who met with Poroshenko in Ukraine late last year, told Business Insider in a Wednesday phone interview he did not know anything about the reported payment to Cohen.

But the attorney added he had “no reason not to believe” Cohen.

“Payments can be proved pretty easily, so it would be silly to deny it if it happened,” Giuliani said. “And he never registered as a foreign agent. And as far as I know, never acted as one.”

‘I have to assume that maybe there was a discussion of doing this. And on neither end was it consummated.’

Giuliani said he wanted to “wait for all the facts” to come out in the matter, and that he wasn’t going to “get angry” at Cohen over any “hypothetical” situation.

“I have to assume that maybe there was a discussion of doing this,” he said of such an arrangement between Cohen and the Ukrainian government. “And on neither end was it consummated.”

A high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer told the BBC that, before Poroshenko’s White House visit, Cohen was brought in because the country’s lobbyists couldn’t secure a substantive Oval Office meeting with Trump. One source told the BBC that Cohen was paid $400,000, while another said he was paid $600,000.

The BBC wrote that there was no suggestion that Trump knew of the payment.

Michael Cohen.

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Michael Cohen.
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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who is engaged in a legal battle against Trump, told the BBC that “Suspicious Activity Reports” filed by Cohen’s bank to the US Treasury Department showed money from Ukrainian interests. After the story broke, Avenatti tweeted, “Boom.”

Earlier this month, Avenatti released information on Cohen’s financial dealings showing that he’d accepted payments from huge corporations such as AT&T and Novartis that hoped to gain access and garner familiarity to Trump after the 2016 presidential election. Cohen did not register as a lobbyist or disclose those payments.

Cohen is under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York. He has not been charged with a crime.

Avenatti obtained an SAR detailing the corporations’ payments. Soon after, a government official who leaked the documents to media sources told The New Yorker of concerns that additional such reports were missing from the Treasury Department’s “FinCen” database. A FinCen representative said last week that “under longstanding procedures,” the office “will limit access to certain SARs when requested by law enforcement authorities in connection with an ongoing investigation.”

Avenatti was pushing earlier for the release of those additional SARs, one of which is said to cover the time frame when the Ukrainian visit to the White House took place.

In addition to Cohen, two Ukrainians who the BBC’s sources said opened a back channel with him on behalf of Poroshenko denied the story. The senior Ukrainian intelligence official also told the BBC that Cohen was assisted by a former Trump business partner named Felix Sater, whose lawyer denied the story to the BBC.

After the story was published, Poroshenko’s office ripped the claims as “blatant lie, slander, and fake.”

“This is how we perceive the disinformation as if the meeting of the President Ukraine and the President of the US had been organized for money,” the statement read. “Ukraine-US summit in June 2017 had been arranged exclusively by means of official diplomatic channels, in particular Ukraine’s Embassy in the US.”

Cohen’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.