Five days ago, I suggested a quick way to get to at least part of the truth in the Trump/Daniels matter by suggesting documents that the White House press corp could demand be released by Trump. At the time, I assumed that Michael Cohen’s limited liability company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., was a shell entity formed exclusively for the single purpose of hiding the payments going to Daniels. As of today, thanks to Ms. Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, we now know that Cohen used Essential Consultants for numerous transactions with connections to Russian oligarchs and involving over $4.4 Million.
Avinatti is about as shameless a self-promoter as, well, as Trump himself. Not surprisingly, he reminds me of the young F. Lee Bailey when Bailey was in his prime. He often promises, in breathless tones, more than he can deliver. But not tonight. Again, I provide a link to his press release of this afternoon. Take a look. The degree of specificity is amazing. This evening, the NYT confirmed most of the facts set forth in the release. Even if 1% of what’s in there is true, Cohen has some major league problems. And, if Cohen has some major league problems, well, I don’t have to tell you the rest.
One cannot “avoid compliance with the subpoena merely by asserting that the item of evidence which he is required to produce contains incriminating writing, whether his own or that of someone else.” U.S. v. Hubbell, 530 U.S. 27, 36 (2000). Moreover, it is questionable whether a single-member LLC, such as Essential Consultants, can even assert the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Lila L. Inman, Personal Enough for Protection: The Fifth Amendment and Single-Member LLCs, 58 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. 1067 (2017). All of the documents and instruments evidencing the payments described in Avinatti’s release would, without any question, be properly subject to a subpoena in an appropriate proceeding. What then would be an “appropriate proceeding”?
There is no question that a Congressional inquiry is appropriate here. Let’s not put too fine a point on this. We have a president who, because of his associations (Manafort, Flynn, etc.), could never pass a background check for a security clearance. Now, we have evidence that suggests that Trump’s personal attorney was deeply involved financially with Russian oligarchs. The same attorney paid off a porn actress on Trump’s behalf.
This is no longer a question of some technical violation of campaign funding laws. Rather, the question has now become: Is the President of the United States compromised because Russians funded the Daniels payoff? Can Congressional Republicans continue to look away from what may very well be the greatest scandal in U.S. history?