Giuliani says Trump was 'unaware' of lawyer Cohen's consulting income

Rudy Giuliani said neither he nor US President Donald Trump know why Michael Cohen received payments from AT&T Inc, Novartis AG and a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
Rudy Giuliani said neither he nor US President Donald Trump know why Michael Cohen received payments from AT&T Inc, Novartis AG and a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani said on Wednesday (May 9) that the President didn't know about payments his personal lawyer Michael Cohen had received from AT&T Inc, Novartis AG and a firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

"The President was unaware of this," Mr Giuliani said in an interview, referring to the revelations about Mr Cohen's income that surfaced late on Tuesday. "The President is not involved in any respect. It's a dead issue as far as I'm concerned."

The payments to Mr Cohen's firm - Essential Consultants LLC - were revealed by attorney Michael Avenatti.

Mr Avenatti is representing Ms Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels, who was paid US$130,000 (S$175,138.60) by Mr Cohen just before the 2016 presidential election to remain silent about an alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump a decade earlier. Mr Cohen made the payment through his firm.

Mr Giuliani said he briefly discussed the payments with Mr Trump by phone on Tuesday night, and said neither he nor the President know why Mr Cohen received them.

Mr Vekselberg is among a handful of Russians to have been sanctioned by the US over the Kremlin's election meddling, the subject of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

He is liked to Columbus Nova, one of the firms that paid Mr Cohen. Columbus Nova hasn't denied making US$500,000 in deposits into the Cohen account, but it and Mr Vekselberg deny the money had anything to do with him.

AT&T sent an email to US employees on Wednesday saying that Mr Cohen was one of "several consultants" the company hired for insight into Mr Trump.

The company was seeking advice on how the administration might handle matters such as anti-trust enforcement and a corporate tax overhaul, according to the e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News. AT&T said it cut ties with Mr Cohen's firm in December.

Novartis said on Wednesday that it had a one-year agreement with Mr Cohen's firm that began in February 2017 and was aimed at gaining insight into the administration's health-care policy.

The company said it quickly determined that Mr Cohen's firm would be unable to provide the services it anticipated and decided not to engage further, but was contractually bound to keep making monthly payments of US$100,000.

Mr Cohen initiated discussions with the drugmaker, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named because the matter isn't public.

Mr Giuliani said he couldn't characterise how the President feels about Mr Cohen's work with these companies.

"From our point of view, we have no reason to be concerned about it or to pursue it any further," he said.