Law firm that worked with Cohen says it was unaware of payments

Law firm that worked with Cohen says it was unaware of payments
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A law and lobbying firm that formed a strategic alliance with Michael Cohen, President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president MORE’s personal attorney, says it has no knowledge of the controversial payments that he received from corporate clients through a shell company. 

Squire Patton Boggs, whose Washington office is among the top 10 highest grossing lobbying shops in town, partnered up with Cohen after the election. He worked out of its New York office, but the firm says he did not serve as an employee and worked at arm’s length.

“At all times, Cohen maintained his independence, was not an employee of the firm, and did not maintain files or bill clients through the firm,” Squire Patton Boggs spokesman Angelo Kakolyris told The Hill.

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The firm terminated its relationship with Cohen in March, about a month before federal authorities raided his home, office and hotel room. 

Reports emerged on Tuesday that multiple corporations had paid Essential Consultants LLC, a shell company set up by Cohen, to provide advice about the Trump administration and legal work in 2017.  

That’s the same shell company that Cohen used to pay adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump. 

Companies, including AT&T and the drug company Novartis, paid Cohen during the time he was working out of Squire Patton Boggs offices, but the firm says it wasn’t aware of the LLC or the payments. 

“We have we never paid any money to, nor were we aware of, Essential Consultants LLC and we’ve never performed work for any of the identified entities as a result of our past arrangement with Cohen,” Kakolyris said. 

The firm gave a similar statement to HuffPost, which first reported the distancing of the firm from Cohen.

AT&T paid Cohen a total of $200,000 from late 2017 to early 2018, and Novartis paid him $1.2 million, even after the company determined he was “unable” to do the health-care consulting for which it had hired him. According to the health care trade publication Stat News, Cohen had promised Novartis access to Trump and his inner circle.

The payments to Essential Consulting LLC are among the business dealings likely being investigated by the U.S. attorneys office in New York. Prosecutors there received a criminal referral from special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE

Cohen is reportedly under investigation for potential campaign finance violations and bank fraud, among other things. 

In an April legal filing following the raid on his offices, federal prosecutors noted that Cohen was contracted to receive a $500,000 annual “strategic alliance fee” from Squire Patton Boggs, in addition to a cut of fees paid by the clients referred by Cohen.

During the alliance — from early 2017 until March 2018 — prosecutors wrote that Cohen referred a total of five clients through his own firm, Michael D. Cohen & Associates P.C. He did not do any advocacy work out of the Washington office. However, a Wall Street Journal report that surfaced later on Wednesday said he had referred a client with ties to Kushner Cos., the family business of White House adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Manafort’s plea deal — the clear winners and losers Five takeaways from Manafort’s plea deal MORE.

The firm earned $370,000 in lobbying fees from that client, U.S. Immigration Fund, since June 2017, according to disclosure forms. Kushner Cos. is under federal investigation and U.S. Immigration Fund CEO Nicholas Mastroianni II told the Wall Street Journal that it had terminated its relationship with the Kushner family business.

Although he had office space at the Squire Patton Boggs, “Cohen would maintain his own computer server system not connected to the law firm’s computer server system … [and] the law firm would not have a key to Cohen’s office,” prosecutors wrote.

In addition, Cohen did not have access to any of Squire Patton Boggs’s client files or shared drives, nor did he maintain an email address on the firm’s domain, according to prosecutors.

Kakolyris said the investigation into Cohen has nothing to do with Squire Patton Boggs.

“The search warrant executed by the FBI on Mr. Cohen's office had nothing to do with matters handled by the firm, neither our firm nor any of our clients are involved in the federal investigation of Cohen,” Kakolyris said.

This post was updated at 8:16 p.m.