Two previously separate stories -- Trump's affairs with former porn stars and PlayBoy models and the possibility that Trump or someone close to him colluded with the Russians -- may have merged into one single story last night.
Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti first announced last night that he had uncovered evidence that companies poured millions into Michael Cohen's shell company known as Essential Consultants L.L.C.
Cohen used that company to cover up Trump's affairs with Daniels and other women and a significant amount of the money came from a Russian oligarch who is very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From the New York Times:
Transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.
Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year of about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch. A lawyer for Columbus Nova, in a statement on Tuesday, described the money as a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Mr. Vekselberg.
Other companies such as AT&T and the Swiss drugmaker Novartis also contributed to Michael Cohen's slush fund and at the moment it's not clear if those companies understand they may have indirectly funded Trump's cover-ups. Or maybe that was the whole point.
Buzzfeed News and CNN both reported this morning that special prosecutor Robert Mueller has been investigating the payments made to Cohen's shell company since at least November 2017 so, again, it's safe to say Mueller's team is months ahead of the headlines.
Trump's affair with Stormy Daniels and Cohen's attempt to cover it up was not reported until January, but it looks like Mueller's team was following the money long before that.
You may recall that federal prosecutors in Manhattan launched their investigation and raided Michael Cohen's office after receiving a tip from Mueller.
If this emerging story was the information Mueller passed along, we're way beyond dubious taxi medallions.
No one seems to know how Michael Avenatti got his hands on this information, but the most plausible speculation I've seen is that someone may have leaked a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) to him. An SAR is filed by banks when they observe unusual activity.