22:51 GMT +321 January 2019
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    Michael Cohen

    Trump’s Lawyer Took $500k to Set Up Meeting Between Trump, Ukraine President

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    Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, was secretly paid anywhere from $400,000 to $600,000 to arrange a sit-down meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, according to a report released by the BBC on Wednesday.

    The report, which cites several sources in Kiev, noted that the hefty payment was made through intermediaries acting on behalf of Poroshenko. Cohen was not registered as a foreign agent of Ukraine under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act when the agreement was inked, the report indicated.

    As the story goes, the decision to bring Cohen into the fold was made after Ukraine's registered lobbyists and its Washington, DC, embassy failed to schedule a meeting between the two presidents that could be seen as "talks." Wanting to set up the backchannel, Poroshenko reportedly tasked a former aide and a Ukrainian MP to handle the matter.

    The Ukrainian MP was later put in touch with Cohen after using personal contacts at a Jewish charity in New York.

    Though sources confirmed the arrangement was made, discrepancies surfaced over the amount that Cohen was paid. One source stated that the 51-year-old lawyer was paid $400,000, while another indicated that he was paid some $600,000. The BBC report stressed that there was no indication that Trump was aware of the transaction.

    However, though the deal had been struck, the meeting remained on shaky grounds and even as Poroshenko was traveling to the states, it wasn't clear whether Cohen had been able to broker any more than just a "brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake."

    "But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit. The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Cohen had taken ‘hundreds of thousands' of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver," the report states. "Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation."

    At the end of the day, Poroshenko ended up getting what he wanted out of his June 2017 meeting at the White House, which was deemed a "substantial visit."

    Though sources did not suggest that Trump requested Poroshenko "to kill the [Paul] Manafort investigation," the report did cite one Kiev source who stated that Poroshenko offered Trump a gift, which was that the Ukraine would no longer look for information to prove the Trump campaign allegedly colluded with Russian to win the 2016 presidential election.

    Manafort, who was very briefly Trump's campaign manager, has been accused of being paid millions by pro-Russian interests in Ukraine. The investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller has brought charges against Manafort ranging from submitting false tax returns, commiting bank fraud and failing to file reports on foreign bank accounts — though nothing, it must be noted, related to collusion during the campaign. The charges were related to financial crimes that took place prior to the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Cohen and the two Ukrainian officials who reportedly played a role in arranging the White House meeting have denied all of the allegations posed in the BBC report by Paul Wood.


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