The BBC reports that Michael Cohen was paid $400,000 by “intermediaries” representing Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to set up a meeting between Poroshenko and Trump.
According to the BBC, which sourced its claims to multiple sources in Kiev including a “high-ranking Ukrainian intelligence officer in Poroshenko’s administration,” the fee was for Cohen getting Poroshenko real face-time with Trump, as it was reported at the time that Poroshenko was being relegated to “drop-in” visits to staff meetings. After the meeting, the BBC reports, the Ukrainian anti-corruption agency stopped an investigation into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The intelligence officer told the BBC that a Ukrainian member of parliament loyal to Poroshenko used contacts at a Jewish charity on Long Island to talk to Cohen, who was then paid $400,000 for his services. Another BBC source says the payment was $600,000.
According to the BBC, the Ukrainians weren’t all that impressed with Cohen, emphasis mine:
he Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Mr Cohen had taken “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.
Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation.
“Poroshenko’s inner circle were shocked by how dirty this whole arrangement [with Cohen] was.”
Eventually, however, Poroshenko did get his meeting:
[Poroshenko] boasted that he had seen the new president before Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. He called it a “substantial visit”. He held a triumphant news conference in front of the north portico of the White House.
A week after Mr Poroshenko returned home to Kiev, Ukraine’s National Anti Corruption Bureau announced that it was no longer investigating Mr Manafort.
“We’ve had some very, very good discussions. It’s going to continue throughout the day. And I think a lot of progress has been made,” Trump told reporters in a joint appearance with Poroshenko on June 20. Added Poroshenko: “We very much admire of your leadership, of your very effective steps, because today includes two historic days — five months of your presidency and — when we launched the first peace plan — peace plan of Ukraine.”
The BBC report says there’s no indication that Trump specifically asked Poroshenko to drop the Manafort investigation, but rather was a “gift” from Poroshenko to Trump, as one source described it. If he hadn’t, it “would be like spitting in Trump’s face,” as one source described it.
In December, the Trump administration approved an arms sale to Ukraine worth $41.5 million, the largest since 2014.
Cohen, former Trump associate Felix Sater (who allegedly helped Cohen), and the two Ukrainians alleged to have set up the backchannel denied the story, while Poroshenko’s office told the BBC that the story was a “blatant lie, slander and fake.”
Rudy Giuliani, who absolutely never shuts the hell up, told Business Insider that it “would be silly [for Cohen] to deny it if it happened,” and that Cohen, as far as he knew, had never acted as a foreign agent.
“I have to assume that maybe there was a discussion of doing this,” Giuliani said of a deal between Cohen and Poroshenko’s government. “And on neither end was it consummated.”