White House dodges questions about Michael Cohen allegedly selling access to President Trump

Key Points
  • White House dodges questions about alleged influence peddling by President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
  • A Tuesday report alleged that Cohen has received millions in the past year from companies seeking access to the Trump administration.
  • AT&T, Novartis, Korean aerospace giant KAI and Russian-linked investment firm Columbus Nova have all confirmed they made payments to Essential Consultants, a shell company Cohen created in 2016.
White House responds to Cohen payments story

The White House on Wednesday ducked questions about President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, after revelations that Cohen was paid millions of dollars in "consulting" fees by companies allegedly seeking access to Trump and members of his administration, or insight into the president's thought processes.

Three of these companies, AT&T, Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and South Korean aerospace giant Korea Aerospace Industries, have had major public policy issues before the Trump administration in the past year.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she was not "aware of" any actions the president had taken to benefit any of the companies.

Asked whether Trump had expressed any concerns about Cohen's actions since the release of a report Tuesday night that suggested Cohen was selling access to him and his administration, Sanders told reporters: "I haven't heard the president express any specific concerns."

Otherwise, the White House spokeswoman did her best to avoid answering questions about Cohen, referring them all to Trump's outside counsel.

"We're not engaging in this process at all," she said of the White House staff.

Tuesday's report was released by lawyer Michael Avenatti, who represents adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Cohen and the president. The report detailed suspicious transactions connected to a company, Essential Consultants, that Cohen established in 2016, just ahead of Election Day.

Novartis and AT&T have both said they paid Cohen for strategic advice about the new administration. KAI said it paid him for advice on government accounting standards. Another firm, Columubs Nova, an American investment firm with ties to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, said it paid Cohen $500,000 for real estate investment advice.

Cohen told reporters Wednesday that Avenatti's report is "inaccurate," according to NBC News. He did not elaborate on what he considered wrong about the report.