Administration

BBC: Ukraine paid Cohen $400K to set up talks with Trump

President Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen was paid by Ukraine to arrange a meeting between the country's president and Trump, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Sources close to the situation told the BBC that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arranged to pay Cohen at least $400,000 to set up the meeting, which took place at the White House in June.

A Ukrainian intelligence official told the BBC that the country's registered lobbyists could only arrange a photo-op with Trump, so they reached out to Cohen to set up a "back channel" to the president. Cohen is not registered as a representative of Ukraine.

After the meeting, Ukraine halted an anti-corruption investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the BBC.

Another source corroborated the story to the BBC, but said that Cohen was paid $600,000. The BBC reported that there is no evidence that Trump knew about the payment.

Cohen is reportedly under criminal investigation in the U.S. for bank fraud and campaign finance law violations, among other things.

The BBC reported that Poroshenko was desperate to meet with Trump and smooth over relations amid questions surrounding the leak of a document apparently from Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau that appeared to show Manafort getting millions from pro-Russia interests in Ukraine.

Ukrainian sources told the BBC that Poroshenko authorized the leak of the document during the 2016 presidential race amid a belief that Hillary Clinton would win the presidency.

After Trump won, Poroshenko moved to strengthen ties with the Trump administration, with the Ukrainian leader attending a meeting with him last year and holding a news conference in front of the White House.

Soon afterwards, Ukraine's anti-corruption bureau announced it would end its investigation into Manafort, who previously worked for the pro-Russia Party of Regions.

"Poroshenko's inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was," one source in Ukraine told the BBC.

The case, which was moved to Ukraine's state prosecutor's office, has since languished, according to the lead attorney.

"There was never a direct order to stop the Manafort inquiry but from the way our investigation has progressed, it's clear that our superiors are trying to create obstacles," prosecutor Serhiy Horbatyuk said. 

Manafort's lobbying work for the pro-Russia party became the focus of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia last year.

Mueller's team has charged the former Trump aide with money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his years of political work in Ukraine.

Updated at 12:49 p.m.

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