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Avenatti: Russian Oligarch Gave $500K to Michael Cohen; Mueller's Team Questions Russian Oligarch About Payments to Cohen. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.

It's primary night. We're waiting for returns and elections happening in four states, not including that closely watch race in West Virginia. We're going to bring you results as they come in.

But we begin with some breaking news, a dramatic development in the Mueller investigation and the investigation into Michael Cohen. CNN has learned that Mueller's investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from his company's U.S. affiliate that were deposited into the account of Essential Consultants LLC, the company set up by the president's attorney, Michael Cohen, that was used to pay off Stormy Daniels. Hundreds of thousands of dollars from this oligarch's U.S. affiliate were made after the election.

Now, the purpose of those payments by the U.S. affiliate is unclear this hour. CNN has reviewed documents that appear to show the payments, but CNN has not independently authenticated the documents. Their authenticity has already been bolstered however by a statement issued by another company tonight, AT&T, which is trying to acquire CNN and its parent company Time Warner.

The information that Michael Avenatti revealed earlier said that AT&T had paid several hundred thousands of dollars to Michael Cohen's Essential Consultants, LLC. AT&T released a statement confirming that and we'll have more on that aspect in a few minutes.

Another company, a pharmaceutical company called Novartis, just issued this statement saying any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered affords current CEO took office and have expired, but that also bolsters the validity of the documents that Michael Avenatti produced earlier today.

As for why Essential Consultants received half a million dollars from a U.S. affiliate of a company owned by a Russian oligarch named Viktor Vekselberg who's a oligarch with ties to Vladimir Putin, CNN has reached out to Michael Cohen and his attorney neither has responded.

But tonight, Michael Avenatti posted a summary of his findings, including these lines referring to the hush money payment to his clients Stormy Daniels, also known as Stephanie Clifford and I quote: Within approximately 75 days with the payment to Ms. Clifford, Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account from which Mr. Cohen made the payment. It appears that these funds may have replenished the account following the payment to Ms. Clifford.

He went on to say, from October 2016 through January 2018, Mr. Cohen used his First Republic account to engage in suspicious financial transactions totaling $4,425,000 and some change.

Chief among these suspicious financial transactions are approximately $500,000 in payments received by Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with an estimated net worth of nearly $13 billion. Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin, Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC. Columbus beginning in January 2017, and continuing until at least August 2017.

Michael Avenatti's report also refers to former RNC official Elliot Broidy, who you may remember it came out just last month that Michael Cohen facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model who says Broidy got her pregnant.

Here's what Mr. Avenatti revealed earlier about Broidy and Cohen. As detailed below, Mr. Cohen through Essential and/or Michael D. Cohen & Associates received at least $187,500 from Mr. Eliot Broidy that originated from an account held in Mr. Brody's name at Bank of America. The business purpose of these payments is unclear.

Michael Avenatti joins us tonight.

So, obviously, a lot to go over and as I said, we reviewed the documents that appeared to show the payments you revealed earlier today, we haven't independently verified them. But the fact that AT&T has now come out saying that the documents at least really to AT&T are correct obviously bolsters the authenticity of the documents.

I know you're not going to say what your information is based on but you are obviously very confident in the information that you released earlier.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: One hundred percent, Anderson, 100 percent confident. We would not have released this if we were not 100 percent confident in the accuracy of the information. I believe right before we went live, "The New York Times" issued an article where they verify the accuracy of what we've released based on their independent review of other documents.

There's no question that this is accurate. It took a lot of work. We've been working on this for some time. We've been in this case for a number of months. We've been spending a lot of time on the case.

We've got a whole team of individuals that are working on the case back in California and we're highly confident in the information we release.

COOPER: Let's begin with $500,000 paid to Michael Cohen's LLC from this company Columbus Nova, which is this U.S. company that's affiliated with a Russian company owned by this oligarch with ties to Putin.

Is it clear to you why this company would have paid Michael Cohen after the election payments up to five hundred thousand dollars?

AVENATTI: It's not clear to us yet, but what we do know is, is that there was about a half a million dollars worth of payments that took place between January of 2017. So, this is after the election that occurred in November 2016, and then up through approximately August of 2017.

[20:05;:07] So, about an eight-month time period of payments totaling approximately half a million dollars. We have yet to hear an explanation from Michael Cohen as to why the personal attorney to the president of the United States who at the time at least for a portion of that time was employed by the Trump Organization would be accepting payments from a Russian oligarch to the tune of a half a million dollars.

COOPER: Now, we should point out that the attorney for the American company Columbus Nova, which is an affiliate of this Russian company, they say that the company made the payment, that this Russian oligarch Vekselberg did not have any involvement with the transaction or any involvement with the decision to hire Michael Cohen.

Do you have evidence to the contrary?

AVENATTI: We do have evidence to the contrary and also, you have the CEO, Mr. Intrater, who's the cousin of the Russian oligarch, who is also Russian. Obviously, Mr. Intrater is.

And look, what's the explanation for the half a million dollars worth of payments? I mean, Michael Cohen should not have been accepting money, especially under the circumstances at this time from anyone with Russian ties quite frankly.

COOPER: This American company, they gave money for the -- for the inauguration funds. They also gave money I believe for -- to the RNC and to for some campaign stuff, all of which is legal.

At the very least, there may be no nefarious reason here at all that this company would have given half a million dollars to Michael Cohen. They could have been hiring him for any number of consulted --

AVENATTI: For what? For his legal skill and acumen? I doubt that but --

COOPER: Well, I mean, you know, he does have the ear of the president. So, a company might want. But at the very least, it is moronic for Michael Cohen who's representing the president United States to be publicly seen as accepting money from a company which has such deep ties to a Russian company with ties to Vladimir Putin.

AVENATTI: Anderson, there's no question about that but let's back up a minute. You said he may have the ear of the president. Michael Cohen should not be selling access to the president of the United States. I mean, this is a big deal.

COOPER: Do you believe that that is what may have happened here?

AVENATTI: Well, from the series of payments and, of course, there's a lot of talk about the revelation in our report about the payments made by the oligarch or through the U.S. entity of the oligarch, but there's also other payments that have been disclosed. You referenced a couple of them, AT&T, Novartis, there's others disclosed within the report.

And it appears that this may be your typical pay-to-play type scenario where you have someone close to a politician, in this case close to the president of the United States, which is highly unusual, selling access -- potential access to the president of the United States.

I don't believe that Michael Cohen is registered as a lobbyist. I don't believe that he's registered as they should be in order to represent any foreign agents or foreign interest. I mean, this is a big deal. I mean, he had to have been receiving this money for something and it's unclear as to what the excuses as to why he was receiving this money.

And let us remember this, up until at least April of this year, Michael Cohen continued to serve as the personal attorney to the president of the United States. We saw the president the first week of April on Air Force One refer to Michael Cohen as his attorney in the present sense. You have to speak to Michael, he is my attorney, something along those lines.

COOPER: You've also said now that the this $500,000 paid from this U.S. affiliate of a Russian company which you believe ultimately was sent over by this Russian oligarch or ordered by Vekselberg, it was received I believe some 75 days after the payment was made to your client Stormy Daniels.

You said -- you haven't said that this was repaying Michael Cohen for that payment, but you said that this did essentially replenish the Essential Consultants account. Are you making a connection between this payment and the payment made to Stormy Daniels? Do you believe that this was some sort of repayment of Michael -- to Michael Cohen or is this just it was 75 days after, it's the first money that came in and it replenished the coffers?

AVENATTI: Well, here's what we're -- and this is what I said in the tweet. I think I was very clear that it may in fact constitute the repayment of the hundred and thirty thousand dollars. We don't know yet, but what we do know is, is that the payment to my client was paid on October 27th, 2016, and the first payment from the Russian oligarch through the U.S. entity occurred in January of 2017. We're not aware of any other deposits that came in during that interim time period.

Now, there may have been other deposits but we're not aware of any and it appears from what Rudy Giuliani has said most recently although that is a never-ending circle as it relates to what Mr. Giuliani may or may not say on any given day about this, because we -- no one can really figure out the truth at least at the White House relating to what happened -- according to Mr. Giuliani, the president's reimbursement scheme of this $130,000, the reimbursement scheme relating to the retainer invoices, the law firm retainer invoices didn't start until much after this.

[20:10:19] COOPER: Do you have any evidence that any of these companies that were giving money into this account were aware that this was the same account used to pay off Stormy Daniels? Because I would imagine any legitimate company or corporation would be very concerned that the money they are paying to this man Michael Cohen for whatever services he is allegedly rendering or offering, that it's going to the same account that's being used to do hush agreements.

AVENATTI: We don't know if they knew or they did not know. But here's what we do know for certain. Essential Consultants was formed approximately two weeks before the payment to my client of $130,000, OK? There's no question in my view that the purpose of the formation of that entity was to further shield that payment from scrutiny by not having Michael Cohen's name directly on it or Donald Trump. There's no question about that in my view.

Secondly, the bank account that was set up for the -- for the routing of this money, this hundred and thirty thousand dollars, was set up in the name of Essential Consultants LLC and in connection with that, and I think that I raised this some time ago on your show, we talked about potential charges that could be brought against Michael Cohen depending on his financial activity or the activity that occurred at the bank.

And I think that I referenced on your show the KYC process which is know your client. And I think I referenced the fact that when they went to establish this account for the LLC, the bank would have asked Michael Cohen questions about what his purpose was, what the expected transaction flow was et cetera, and we detail in the report now specific information that Michael Cohen gave to the bank when this account was opened which has proven to be absolutely false.

COOPER: But a person can change the nature of their business, can they not? I mean --

AVENATTI: They can change the nature of their business, but the nature of this business was never from all indications real estate consulting or anything else that Michael Cohen told the bank.

COOPER: The -- as we said, there are other companies that gave money. We talked about AT&T. The -- this company, according to your report, the pharmaceutical company Novartis paid Michael Cohen $399,920 in four separate payments in late 2017 into 2018. Do you know why these payments were made?

AVENATTI: No, although what we do know is that the dinner that that the president took a dinner with the CEO of Novartis shortly after these payments --

COOPER: I think it was at Davos -- before his speech at Davos.

AVENATTI: I believe that's correct. I believe that's what the report states.

And what's interesting about those payments frankly is the amount of those payments. They appear to be made in sums that are -- that are meant to avoid detection of some sort.

COOPER: Ninety nine thousand dollar payments below the hundred thousand dollar mark.

AVENATTI: Right, each of the payments are within a very small amount of being a round number. So, it looks like they were purposely structured in that way to avoid detection or for some reporting, to avoid some reporting requirement.

COOPER: I want to read the statement from the Columbus Nova has put out, which is the American arm of this -- the affiliate of Russia company.

They say: After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures. Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen or false. Either Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Novas owners were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.

That's from Richard Owens, the attorney for Columbus Nova.

AVENATTI: Well, Columbus Nova is owned by -- a hundred percent the best of my knowledge, is owned by this Russian national firm, number one.

COOPER: They say it's a purely American company. It's an American CEO, American board.

AVENATTI: Well, look, Mr. Intrater, the CEO, it was the cousin of the Russian oligarch, OK? That's A. B, my understanding is, it's 100 percent owned subsidiary of the Russian entity.

C, of all the people that could be hired for consulting advice and on real estate and the like here in New York or elsewhere, and there's a lot of real estate here in New York, there's a lot of real estate consultants, they just happen to hire the personal attorney to the president United States who takes a half a million dollars during this time period at the same time period where the president is under intense scrutiny relating to his ties to Russia, it just makes no --

COOPER: That's why I don't understand.

AVENATTI: It just makes -- well, you don't understand it, I don't understand it. And anybody with any common sense in America shouldn't understand it.

And look, there's a very easy solution to all of this, all right? And I'm going to call for it tonight. Michael Cohen should turn over all of his bank records from this account for Essential Consultants from its inception in through today, just release them. And if there's nothing to hide, he should release the bank records and I'm sure that it will all be sorted out and everyone will come to the conclusion that there's nothing untoward or improper here.

[20:15:02] I guarantee you that is not what would happen if these bank records were released. Additional questions would result because this doesn't pass the smell test.

COOPER: The government would also have information on this that if they wanted to make public, they could make public, wouldn't day?

AVENATTI: You're absolutely right, and we have called for the release of the suspicious activity report or reports relating to this account. We wrote a letter to the treasury secretary. We demanded their release or its release. He did not respond.

We have tried to make this a front and center issue without great success and hopefully, at this point, now, with the release of this information, there will be a call for the release of this information, the suspicious activity report or reports relating to this account so the American people can see exactly what happened here, and whether additional Russian money was taken and in addition, where the money went.

Did all the money go to Michael Cohen? Did some of it go to the Trump Organization? Did some of it go to the president? Because if additional monies were received in a pay-to-play type scheme, and if those money's made their way either directly or indirectly to the president, well, then, we've got a whole different ball game.

COOPER: Wait a minute, you're raising the specter that Michael Cohen is receiving money to get access to the president of the United States and that the president might be receiving some of that money? That seems --

AVENATTI: I'm stating that that is certainly a possibility, because we don't know where all of this money went, and we need to get to the bottom of it. The American people deserve to know where this money went.

COOPER: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to have a more of Michael after this break.

We'll also get the latest in the breaking news tonight that the Mueller team has questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Michael Cohen, as we've been talking about.

And the latest in the primary races tonight in four states, including the West Virginia race where a candidate has used racial slurs in his own campaign ads, candidate who's served time in prison has described himself as Trumpier than Trump.


COOPER: The breaking news. CNN has learned the Robert Mueller's investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Michael Cohen that were made after the election.

I want to get more now, details on that from CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Kara Scannell.

So, Shimon, what have you -- what can you tell us? What did you learn?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. So, investigators have questioned this Russian man. He's an oligarch. His name is Viktor Vekselberg, and a lot -- you know, you and Michael there talked a lot about this.

They questioned him about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments that were made to President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen in 2017.

[20:20:06] But there are also questions about other money that perhaps went into people affiliated with the Trump campaign and the inauguration. Those questions were also asked of Viktor Vekselberg when he was stopped by FBI agents.

We're told, Anderson, that Vekselberg has not been cooperative with authorities. He didn't answer many of their questions. But certainly, they -- all of these issues that you have been discussing at least in part with Michael Avenatti have come up as concerns for investigators.

COOPER: Kara -- well, let's talk about Vekselberg, what the FBI wanted to know from him.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Anderson, Viktor Vekselberg is one of the most prominent wealthy businessmen in Russia. He at one point in spent a hundred million dollars to buy Faberge eggs to bring them home.

So, what we know is that he was one of the two oligarchs that we previously reported, was stopped when their private planes landed in the U.S., and at that time, he was asked in addition to the questions that Shimon was telling, but he was also asked about questions -- he's also asked questions about payments from his cousin Andrew Intrater, who was the head of Columbus Nova.

Now, his cousin had donated to the Trump inauguration fund, the Trump victory fund in the RNC, totaling over $300,000. So, that's an issue in a question that that authorities had asked Vekselberg, as well as Intrater sources tell CNN.

Now, Columbus Nova, the company, has since given us a statement. We reached out to them for comment before our story but they have now given us a statement in which I'll read part of it to you, says after the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.

Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen or false. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Nova's owners were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.

So, we have a confirmation now from Columbus Nova that they were one of Michael Cohen's business clients. They're drawing a distinction saying that this decision was made irrespective of Viktor Vekselberg. We do know, however, that Mueller's investigators did question Vekselberg about this, as well as Mr. Intrater, according to our sources, Anderson.

COOPER: Shimon, it is a little hard to believe that they just happen to pick -- I missed the point that Mr. Avenatti made earlier, that they just happen to pick Michael Cohen for real estate advice, nothing to do with his relationship with president of the United States.

But we don't -- I mean, there was -- there was -- to our knowledge, I mean, it's not known that there was anything illegal about any of these payments.

PROKUPECZ: No, and that's exactly right, Anderson. There isn't, and we should be clear about that. There's nothing at least from what we've been told by our sources, specifically by one source who has some knowledge of this investigation, though there are suspicions as you raised, there are concerns given that this Viktor Vekselberg was sanctioned by the United States for interfering in the U.S. election, he is now linked to this company in New York that was paying Michael Cohen money.

So, certainly those are questions that investigators are going to have. I mean that that is why they stopped Viktor Vekselberg on a plane when he came to the New York area. It's also why they've questioned Andrew Intrater, the man behind Columbus Nova. These are questions that the FBI has all along been trying to investigate, trying to look out, to see if there was any way there was any kind of financial influence into the president's circle. So, certainly, these questions, these coincidences here would be something investigators and want to look at.

COOPER: And just be clear, Simon, it's his relative who's running this American arm of the company, right?

PROKUPECZ: That's correct and we've confirmed that with, you know, at least three sources actually, Anderson, that there was this business relationship, that this was a cousin. Of course, some folks have said to us, oh, well he didn't know. But there is lots of different takes on this.

But nonetheless, I think, as we've said, there was concern here from U.S. investigators.

COOPER: Kara, where do things stand with criminal us investigation involving Cohen in the Southern District in New York? Do we know?

SCANNELL: Well, so -- and the judge, of course, have pointed a special master to weave through this you know difficult issue of what should be covered by attorney-client privilege and what documents the prosecutors can have access to as they continue in their criminal investigation of Cohen's personal financial dealings. Now, the special master has said that she's going to set a timeline.

There's an expectation that the government will have provided all of the documents to Cohen's team, as well as the special master for this review by the end of the week. The government has handed over already eight boxes of digitized documents, as well as over the contents of over a dozen electronic devices.

So, Anderson, we're expecting a hearing in this case in about two weeks and I think at that point, we'll have greater clarity of how big an argument this is going to be, how many of -- how much of the documents that have been seized are actually going to be subject to attorney-client privilege. Of course, remember, Cohen's attorney had said in court that Cohen only had three clients during the past year.

[20:25:04] COOPER: Right. I mean, to say you only have three clients now, I mean, there's all these other companies, at one -- you know, again, that raises questions.

Kara, appreciate it. Shimon as well.

We're going to have more now from CNN national politics reporter, MJ Lee.

So, MJ, Michael Avenatti obviously -- I mean, you know, he's talking about this number of other payments into this account held by Cohen as well. What are you learning about those by some of these corporations?

MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: That's right, Anderson. According to Avenatti, Cohen receives significant sums of money from a number of other entities after the 2016 election, payments that he says calls into question Cohen's business practices.

Let's just take a look at this one more time. In addition to the $500,000 from Columbus Nova, we also have $400,000 from Novartis, which is the pharmaceutical company, and we also have $200,000 from AT&T. We have $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries. So, that is a significant inflow of money into the account of Trump's personal lawyer that we are learning about for the first time tonight.

COOPER: And what about the response from the companies?

LEE: So, we just received the statement from AT&T. Here it is.

Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engage in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us and the contract ended in December 2017.

So, AT&T here is confirming that they did pay Cohen for his services and that what they wanted from him was insights into President Trump and, of course, as you know, Anderson, AT&T is trying to acquire CNN's parent company Time Warner and the Justice Department sued to prevent that merger from happening in November of last year.

And according to Avenatti, two of the payments from AT&T to Cohen were made before the Justice Department sued to block the merger.

I should also note that Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, also sent us this statement: Any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current CEO taking office in February of this year and have expired.

COOPER: And just to be clear, this is the same account that was used to pay off Stormy Daniels?

LEE: Yes, that's right. You know, this is kind of the fascinating twist to all of this, that all of the money that we have just been talking about was paid to a bank account that Cohen created in 2016 to pay off Stormy Daniels. Now, this is that hush payment of $130,000 that Cohen made to Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

So, it is certainly intriguing that according to Avenatti, that bank account was also used to receive significant sums of money after the election. And I think that we shouldn't lose sight of the big picture, Anderson, and that is that Michael Cohen is Donald Trump's fixer. He was for years the president's right-hand man. He constantly spoke to the president, so any payment from any company to Cohen, it's potentially important.

And speaking of, I should also note, that Cohen and his attorney have not responded to our request for comment tonight.

COOPER: All right. MJ, thanks very much.

Michael Avenatti is with us again.

I should point out, I seem to recall when early on, when you first came on, the very fact that it was so easy to trace Essential Consultants to Michael Cohen is because Michael Cohen did not do a good job of covering his tracks when he set this company up.

AVENATTI: Right, he signed as the incorporator on the papers --

COOPER: Right, which you --

AVENATTI: -- which is absurd if you're trying to actually shield your involvement with a particular entity.

But, you know, I want to touch on some of the reporting we just heard about, Anderson. First of all, AT&T states that they paid $200,000 to better understand the administration.

COOPER: To get insights.

AVENATTI: To get insights.

I mean, I guess that' why the vast majority of American people can get honesty and insights, because they don't have $200,000 to pay Michael Cohen to get those insights. You shouldn't have to pay $200,000 to get insights into the administration. I mean, we all know what that really means. That's first of all. Second of all, it's interesting that AT&T comes out and they issued

their statement that they paid $200,000 for insights into the administration. At the same time, you have the entity tied to the oligarch stating that they weren't purchasing access or insights into the administration. They were purchasing real estate, consulting services. You know, it's very odd to me.

COOPER: And business opportunities I think they said and real estate --


AVENATTI: And capital opportunities or business opportunities, OK? Those are very different things. So, I doubt that Michael Cohen is a one-stop shop for all of these services.

COOPER: It does seem.

AVENATTI: Imagine this guy. This guy is like a renaissance man. He's a lawyer. He's a business consultant. He's a real consultant. He's an administration insight consultant.

I mean, what -- is there anything this man can't do?

COOPER: I mean, if you are looking for some form of expertise from Michael Cohen, understanding of President Trump, access to President Trump, that would seem to be his biggest calling card of the last several years.

AVENATTI: Well, that actually would be his only calling card, legitimate calling card of the last several years. But, look, he shouldn't be selling access to the president of the United States, to the people's president. I mean, that's -- Michael Cohen should not be selling that access.

And again, if he's selling that access, it begs the question as to where this money went once it made its way into the account.

COOPER: There's also this payment, $187,500 from Elliott Broidy. And Cohen has said, he was involved in a hush agreement for alleged affair that Broidy allegedly had that involved a pregnancy a well. But, it's interesting that he is paying Cohen, I don't know if that is for services rendered. And also these transactions from others. Basically, I mean its not -- some of them from one account to another, but there -- some these seem to go back and forth and kind of curve around themselves.

AVENATTI: This $187,500 to Michael Cohen in my view is very suspicious. As someone have that has represented parties on both sides of settlement agreements. Both -- sometimes I represent complainants, and sometimes I represent defendants, I've got a lot of experience on this, OK.

Normally, when you represented defendant, or potential defendant, which is what Michael Cohen is claimed happened as relates to this Broidy type settlement. You would be paid on an hourly basis. So however much time you would spend negotiating that deal, you'd be paid whatever your hourly rate is times how many hours it is.

In this case you would not expect Michael Cohen to spent a considerable amount of time negotiating that deal if it in fact happened as everyone says. You would expect Michael Cohen to potentially build 10 or 20 year -- maybe $25,000 for his work on behalf of Mr. Broidy.

Certainly not 187,500 which is a round number. And it inexplicable to me, is why Mr. Broidy over a period of a number of months would be making regular level payments to Michael Cohen in connection with that. It doesn't make any sense.

COOPER: The -- what -- I mean, what is next for you in all of this? I mean, do you have a clear next step what -- I mean, you put this stuff out here, I guess the ripple effects you don't know where it ends up.

AVENATTI: Correct. We don't know what the ripple effects are. But we've shown a lot of flexibility and we've been malleable as it relates to reacting to things in the case, we're going to continue to do that. We certainly have next steps planned out. The timing of those, it's a very fluid situation as you might imagine. We're going to see what the reaction is from the other side. I mean I hope that -- I hope the President goes on Fox & Friends tomorrow and then I hope that Rudy Giuliani makes the round on Fox as well. And, you know, that all -- I'm sure provide a lot of fodder for us in the coming week.

COOPER: I assume, were -- is it fair to some given our reporting that special counsel Mueller talked to the Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Michael Cohen, that Mr. Mueller has all of this information, or close to this information that you released earlier.

AVENATTI: We don't know what Mueller has or what he does not have. I know, that his confidence level is extremely high. He's an expert prosecutor, he's an exceptional attorney. I mean this is no Rudy Giuliani that we're dealing with here. So, we have a lot of confidence in his ability and the ability of his team. As well as the team that's been a symbol from the southern district of New York, which is some of the finest prosecutors in the United States.

COOPER: Do you expect Michael Cohen to come forward and say anything about this? I mean, he is under a criminal investigation, it's highly unlikely that he would make some sort of a comment.

AVENATTI: Well, I think he made a comment either yesterday or the day before by way of Twitter, he took exception to I think the "New York Times" article which I was amazed, I actually read. I had to read it three or four times to make sure it was actually him that had posted this, because I thought it was so stupid. But, you know, who knows with this guy. I mean who knows with him, Rudy Giuliani, we can see any number of things, but look, they should just release the bank records, they should release the banks records and the American people should demand the release of the suspicious activity report that are held by the Treasury Department. So the American people can get all the information --

COOPER: The Treasury Department has them, they could do that?

AVENATTI: They could -- absolutely. They could do it tonight. There's no issue, they could publish the SARS. There's no reason why they shouldn't publish the SARS, they should publish them for the American people and let the American people look at the facts and the evidence. And look Anderson, if there's nothing nefarious here and if it was all above board, it was all legit, and I don't believe it was for a moment. I don't think that's true, but let's assume that it is, then they should want to release this information.

Rudy Giuliani should actually tell the President release the information, so that we can be over with this thing.

COOPER: Why would Michael Cohen create these entity essential consultants with -- seemingly with the purpose immediately of at leas the first thing it seemed to have done was to pay off Stormy Daniels, 11 days before the election. But then why would he use that same entity to collect other moneys from, you know, legitimate companies in many cases.

AVENATTI: I have no idea.

COOPER: I mean -- but, just from a business standpoint, you could easily, have under --

AVENATTI: No, their alias (ph).

COOPER: -- now there are other LLCs, you could have -- you have -- if your doing a legitimate work, you could -- you set up a shingle and you want people to know that you're working for AT&T or for some of these other companies.

AVENATTI: Yes, I don't know if any, I don't know if any publicity that he attempted to generate, or, you know, it looks like it appears as if he didn't really want this known.

[20:35:05] But, again, I don't understand, in November, December of 2016, Michael Cohen does not appear to have any of these clients, like Novartis or AT&T or the Russian oligarch run entity. This appeared not to been his clients in 2016. It was only after the President Donald Trump was elected president in late 2016, then all of a sudden Michael Cohen, I guess on election night, Michael Cohen became an expert in business consulting, real estate consulting, capital investment and insights entity administration. And all of a sudden the guy is paid millions of dollars.

COOPER: I mean it is the kind of thing that lobbyist are paid a lot of money for their paid for access and that's -- I mean Michael Cohen --


COOPER: -- is not -- they're registered. AVENATTI: No, they registered and they have to disclose things and there's rules and regulations. And look, let us not forget that Mr. Trump when he ran for President, he said he was going to drain the swamp, wasn't going to take any money. There wasn't going to be this high power lobbyist, I mean everyone remembers the rhetoric. And what they were said. Meanwhile, the guy's right hand attorney who had an office next to his office in Trump Tower, meanwhile, we find out that immediately after the election he's got hand out and he is accepting all of this money.

COOPER: Just want to -- you tweeted that you're just getting started. Is that hyperbole? Do you have more information and if so, why not just release it now?

AVENATTI: Well, look, if anybody has been paying attention for the last eight, nine weeks, they know that there's not a lot of hyperbole. We make a lot of statements, but we back them up. And then -- and then some we, do over promise and under deliver. We under promise and over deliver. And that's exactly what we're going to continue to do.

There are more bomb shells coming, there's more evidence, there's more information. And I have to tell you this, I'm going to touch on this, OK. There has been a lot of criticism lately about been a lot, there's been some criticism about how our media strategy, and how often I'm on CNN, and how often I've been your show and other networks, et cetera, OK.

It's all a bunch of nonsense, because here's the bottom line Anderson, it's working, OK. It's working in spades. And one of the reasons, and one of the ways that it's working is, because we're so out front on this, people send us information. People want to help our cause. People contact us with information.

COOPER: When you talk about your cause, what is your cause? What is the -- and what's the end?

AVENATTI: Our cause right now is having the NDA invalidated --

COOPER: For Stormy Daniels.

AVENATTI: -- hold -- for Stormy Daniels. Holding Michael Cohen responsible for his defamatory statements, holding Mr. Trump responsible for his defamatory statements and ultimately, having all the information relating to this account, the LLC and the payment to my client laid out for the American people so they decide what to do.

COOPER: Michael Avenatti, thanks very much.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

COOPER: Appreciate it.

Just ahead, more reaction on that payment to Michael Cohen, this time from former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. Also, tonight, we're keeping close eye that Republican Senate primary in West Virginia, the polls are close. We'll have the very latest, ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:41:07] COOPER: More on our breaking news tonight. We heard from Michael Avenatti about the $500,000 payment from a company linked to a Russian oligarch to President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen.

Joining me now for all his take on all this is CNN senior legal analyst Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

Preet, I want to ask you about this information that Michael Avenatti released today. We -- I should say, we reviewed the documents that appear to show these payments. We haven't been able to independently verify or authenticate it the documents, but we have viewed them and it does appear to show these payments. Does it make sense to you that a Russian oligarch would be depositing some $500,000 to Michael Cohen --

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGALA ANALYST: No. It makes no sense at all. You know, if you look at the timing of the allegations about collusion which is assume the President likes to say there's no evidence of and its not, you know, specifically by that word a crime. Conspiracy as collision is not. That's all happening in 2016. Then there's an election and in 2017, these payments that you folks have looked at. And I haven't looked at the document independently look like payments are made from a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin, going into the account for the person who puts himself out, very proudly as a person with the President.

And then 2018 --

COOPER: I should point out through. U.S. subsidiary and this company.

BHARARA: Yes, but the oligarchs company.

COOPER: Right.

BHARARA: And then in 2018, that same oligarch is put on the sanctions list. So, you know, the turn of events from '16, '17, 'and 18, given the swirl of all this information is odd. You know, at a minimum, it's a very strange look for the President's personal lawyer knowing all this allegations, knowing that any connection certainly between folks who have to Putin. And, you know, deposits of the large amounts of money would look suspicious. And maybe there's no crime and maybe there was nothing necessarily untoward about it, but it sure looks mighty fishy and you shouldn't be surprise that there maybe two different offsets looking at this.

COOPER: It's -- I mean just from an outsider looking in and again, maybe there is nothing untoward about it, but it does seem moronic for the President's personal attorney to be accepting half a million dollars --


COOPER: -- from this Russian oligarch. I mean it just -- BHARARA: Yes.

COOPER: -- it just moronic is the only word that comes to mind or nefarious.

BHARARA: Yes. I mean they're not mutually exclusive. They are nefarious morons are well. It just is -- I think that people are going to want to ask and understand what the reason for the payments was. And so if Michael Cohen gets charged or is not cooperating already, may be he will clap in the future. This maybe the thing that everybody has been talking about. You know, what information will he have that's of use to southern district and their investigation of Michael Cohen or special counsel office in connection with their investigation of collusion. Maybe Michael -- it's all speculation, we should say it right, maybe Michael Cohen will give the true reason, and maybe it's a nefarious reason. Maybe he'll lie about what the reasoning was for these payments. And that, you know, we found the people in President's circle on not above either one of those things.

COOPER: According to the documents which Michael Avenatti is referencing documents that we've seen but haven't been independently authenticate, there was some $4 plus million, $4.4 something million put into -- into this account over time. That money basically as far as we know AT&T put in some $200,000 from October 2017 to January 2018 and we should say AT&T is currently trying to acquire Time Warner CNN parent company. There is a South Korean aero space company, there's a pharmaceutical company, Novartis as well -- as well as some -- some other smaller amounts of money.

But if -- if this is why would a Russian oligarch and South Korean aero space company be putting in money into an LLC that Michael Cohen setup in Delaware that was used to pay -- pay off Stormy Daniels? Why wouldn't it be a public company?

[20:45:12] BHARARA: I don't know. These are the questions that I assume prosecutors are asking. Look, it's also could be true that there are innocent explanations and maybe it was poor judgment to be engaged in a business transaction with someone like this oligarch, you know, who's connected to Vladimir Putin. Or it could be that those transactions were nefarious. And there something unlawful about them, not just unseemly.

There are people who are unable to get confirmed to positions in the government, because they had some contractual relationship with or represented at some point some Russian company, because there was so much concern about this, and this dates back to the campaign. It's the thing that makes the President very upset, it's the thing that caused, you know, that Mueller investigation to begin in the first place and in the face of all of that, of all of the accusations whether you think they're nonsense or not to be taking money from a person like this, if this is all true and pence out, is pretty extraordinary.

COOPER: Preet Bharara, thanks very much.

BHARARA: Thank you. COOPER: Thanks. Extraordinary indeed.

Up next, I'll talk with CNN political analyst and "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman about the latest current swirling around the White House.


COOPER: We're dealing with a lot of breaking news tonight. Reports of those cash payments, President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen from a company link to a Russian oligarch.

We're also keeping an eye on that West Virginia Senate primary tonight. But that's been awhile since we've heard from "New York Times" White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, who's been keeping a close track of President Trump's often (INAUDIBLE) White House from his preferences, that Senate race to his new personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

[20:50:13] First of all, let me just ask you about these -- the story today about the payments. Does it -- I mean, just in terms of the optics, if nothing else, from Michael Cohen --


COOPER: -- to be in business with even if it's an American affiliate of a, you know, run by a guy who is the cousin or relative of a Russian oligarch whose company is the parent company of this affiliate with close ties to Putin.

HABERMAN: Yes, I think that -- I think the argument that Cohen and his folks would make is that this was all legal. There was no reason not to make it. There was nothing prohibiting it. And that may be true, but the optics are not good. At a moment when it was already clear that there were investigations --

COOPER: But this is after the election.

HABERMAN: Correct. It was after the election. It was clear that there were already investigations going on into Russian influence on the 2016 election. At minimum, you would as the President's personal attorney you could predict this was going to become a headache down the road.

COOPER: Rudy Giuliani's pushing back on this idea that the President -- that President Trump is unhappy with his performance. What are you hearing from people?

HABERMAN: What I'm hearing is that the President is doing what the President often does because he does not really like interpersonal conflict. He is basically OK with Giuliani, a little teasing about certain aspects of his performance, but hardly the stern voice that we have heard that he has had with other people talking about Rudy Giuliani. So he's fine to Giuliani's face, more or less, and he's less fine after the fact. Look, Rudy Giuliani has become essentially another staffer to Donald Trump and Donald Trump is famously up and down on his staff. I don't think Giuliani was ever going to be an exception. I also think what Trump was hoping Giuliani would do, and there were two things, one is that he wanted him as a big name, a big splash. You know, he's whole thing was no one's ever heard of these other people, the raskens, who were really the -- the main new lawyers to his team who working on the case.

So, he wanted somebody who could make a headline. And he also liked the fact he thought Giuliani could go on TV. He hoped, I think, to some extent that he can believe what Giuliani was saying about, we can make this go away. We can get this done with quickly. It's just dragged it out and gotten worse and Giuliani is getting a lot of attention, which the President never likes somebody doing.

COOPER: Right, I mean and Giuliani really started out and when he was first named giving those interviews, you know, saying oh, you know, two weeks, the timeframe that we'll get this kind of decided on and talking about his personal relationship with Mueller, which I can't imagine would go down well with Robert Mueller, the idea he's influenced by a personal relationship.

HABERMAN: Right. I mean I think its one thing -- there's have been a lot of saying the inside part out loud, right? Like we were well aware that Ty Cobb who was working within the White House in the counsels office, who is now left the team. He was said by several people to have had a good relationship with Mueller, but you did not hear Ty Cobb really openly talk about that or float it around. Cobb gave a couple of interviews but nothing like what we've seen Giuliani do.

What Giuliani has done that has bothered a lot of people around the President is he has talked a lot about the conditions of an interview. This is an interview that most people on the President's legal team do not think he should be doing, period. And that the President I'm told, despite the bihora (ph) about, you know, I'd love to go, do this, if my lawyer say it, is well aware of the danger. And so Giuliani has created this condition where, you know, it's not clear whether Mueller will exercise the subpoena power that he has to try to compel the President to talk. But he might almost feel like he has to based on what Giuliani has been pushing him toward.

COOPER: You had reported that the President was feeling -- I can't remember if it was a month ago or --

HABERMAN: Or just an hour.

COOPER: I know --


COOPER: -- really time is.


COOPER: But it doesn't seem to exist for me any more. But that the President was feeling more confident in his ability to be President.

HABERMAN: Yes, that was months ago.

COOPER: Yes -- that sort of -- you know, he's got this.


COOPER: I'm wondering these days, do you know is he still feeling that?

HABERMAN: He is still feeling that. It's funny that you mentioned that, because I had someone close to him bring up that piece to me in the last couple of days, saying, you know, that was correct. That is what is happening with him, he is more emboldened. He does feel as if he's got this, which as a colleague reminded me, is not dissimilar for any President entering their second year, but its much more pronounced for Trump for a couple of reasons.

But at the same time, he is also very aware that there is a pending threat and if that threat has only gotten bigger in the form of the SDNY investigation into Michael Cohen. He is aware of that he is worried about it, you know. And he's not consumed but it is always there.

COOPER: He had had a dinner with Michael Cohen at Mar-a-Lago weeks ago. I guess it was on a Saturday, if I remember.

HABERMAN: That's right.

COOPER: Then there was the phone call to Michael Cohen, which I believe was right after the raid. Do we know -- are there any more connections?

HABERMAN: My understanding is no. I've heard from a couple of people that the President asks people, you know, how is -- who know Michael Cohen how is he holding up, how is he doing? You know, I have to imagine that that is said in part to get back to Cohen. I don't know of any other direct contact, but what has existed has been enough.

COOPER: And just in terms of, you know, the chief of staff Kelly, the kind of feeling within the White House -- is it as -- I mean, I guess with Giuliani out there sort of making gaffe after gaffe, that's got to have been a concern.

[20:55:12] HABERMAN: I mean, it's frustrating -- look, you've seen the stories about how Trump is really frustrated. The reality is that, yes, Trump is frustrate by some of which Giuliani has said. It was predictable if you look to a lot of these interviews, that he was not going to like what some of what Giuliani said. But the staff is equally frustrated, it makes the staff's job much harder and is basically having this sort of untethered, unresponsible surrogate just out there not coordinating with any -- just answering his phone in the middle of dinners.

And that is frankly, who's the other person we know who has done that overtime, Donald Trump. They don't really need two Donald Trumps. And that is, I think, what they're concerned about. I think that Giuliani is having a lot of fun. I think that he is enjoying this.

COOPER: He's having a lot of fun?

HABERMAN: I do think he is having fun. Yes.

COOPER: Because he's back in front and center.

HABERMAN: Yes, I think that -- yes, and I think that this is, you know, this is -- he is a former prosecutor and I think that he's got a long legal resume and I think that there's an aspect of this that is enjoyable for him. I think it is less enjoyable for Mueller.

COOPER: Maggie Haberman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Much more ahead on today's breaking news about Michael Cohen and payments from a company linked to a Russian oligarch. We'll also get an update on the primary raise, going on in four states, primary races, including West Virginia, where Don Blankenship right there, the candidate -- controversial candidate says the either way he's a winner because probation ends at midnight. He was in prison. And that's not the strangest thing that he said during this campaign. Details ahead.


DON BLANKENSHIP, CEO, MASSEY ENERGY COMPANY: -- it's not what I would like the Republican Party to be, even much less of --