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The Trump-Russia investigation showcases a different star seemingly every week. This week's bit player is Trump Organization lawyer Michael D. Cohen, whose emails with the Kremlin about building a Trump Tower in Moscow have landed him on front pages and on MSNBC chyrons during breaks from Houston flood coverage.
Cohen bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Andy Kaufman, and some of his antics over the years would work well in a skit from the cult comic's prankish repertoire. The problem with that, of course, is he's a lawyer and close to the most powerful man on Earth. Regardless, Cohen could be said to rank just a few degrees below former White House Communications Director Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci on the De Niro Taxi Driver "You talkin' to me?" rant scale (see below).
President Donald Trump has denied trying to do business in Russia. But Cohen confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee in a statement that the Trump Organization considered a "Trump Tower Moscow" proposal in the months from September 2015 to January 2016, but dropped it.
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Cohen copped to it after a leak of his January 2016 email to the Kremlin, asking for help with a Trump Tower project in Moscow. At the time, Trump was dominating the GOP primary contenders in debates but hadn't yet won a primary.
In a total Andy Kaufman move, Cohen sent the now-damning email not to an individual, but to the Kremlin press service's general email address. The Kremlin has confirmed receiving the email, but said it never replied. "We don't respond to such business topics. It's not our job, and we left it without a response," spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Cohen is scheduled to testify before the House committee investigating Russia election interference sometime next month. His personal attorney, Steve Ryan, toldNewsweek he will cooperate with the committee.
In preparation for the testimony, here are 10 memorable facts about Mr. Cohen.
1. He has a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, and he and his wife got rich in the (what some would refer to as sleazeball) world of New York City taxicab medallions.
2. Cohen packs heat: The New York Times has reported that he carries a licensed pistol in an ankle holster.
3. He has deep personal connections to Ukraine. He is married to a Ukrainian, as is his younger brother, Bryan. The brothers dabbled in Ukrainian business, and his name is on two family financial companies in Ukraine incorporated in 1998. He and his younger brother were directors of International Ethanol of Ukraine, according to 2006 filings, Bloomberg reported.
4. Cohen once threatened to ruin a 26-year-old Miss USA contender who claimed the Trump-owned contest was rigged. "It's going to be my privilege to serve it to you on a silver platter like I did that idiot from Pennsylvania in Miss USA, because I think you're dumber than she is," Cohen told a reporter. "Sheena Monnin, another one that wanted to defame Mr. Trump and ended up with a $5 million judgment. That's going to be nothing compared to what I do to you." Monnin's father confirmed the threats.
5. As of last year, Cohen didn't believe spousal rape is illegal. (It is illegal in all 50 states.) Responding to a call about Ivana Trump's claim in a divorce case deposition that Trump raped her, the lawyer replied: "[U]nderstand that by the very definition, you can't rape your spouse. You cannot rape your spouse. And there's very clear case law."
6. Cohen likes to threaten journalists. "I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don't have," he said to a Daily Beast reporter who called him about the rape claim. "So I'm warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting. You understand me? You write a story that has Mr. Trump's name in it, with the word 'rape,' and I'm going to mess your life up…for as long as you're on this frickin' planet… You're going to have judgments against you, so much money, you'll never know how to get out from underneath it," he added. He also re-tweeted threats to Megyn Kelly: After she grilled Trump on his treatment of women, he called her a liar and retweeted "Let's gut her," as well as others calling her a "snake" and a "psycho."
7. Cohen went ballistic when Trump lost the cameo role of POTUS in Sharknado 3 to billionaire Mark Cuban. The role included a scene in which the president shoots sharks inside the White House before impaling a Great White with an American flag. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cohen called a producer after Cuban got the part and shouted at him, "'How dare you? Donald wanted to do this. We're going to sue you! We're going to shut the entire show down.'"
8. Earlier this year Cohen tweeted pictures of his college-age daughter in black lingerie to his 218,000 followers. "Jealous?" he tweeted at critics.
9. Donald Trump Jr., himself a Trump-Russia Star of the Week not long ago, hooked Cohen up with his job in the Trump Organization back in 2006.
10. Cohen is such an ardent, lifelong Trump fan that he has let it be known he read Trump's Art of the Deal twice as a teenager.