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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The latest revelations about Michael Cohen all stem from that document posted earlier this week by Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti. There were some small outgoing payments on the last of the seven pages that appear to have been tied to other ‘Michael Cohen’s’. Those were errors. But the payments that garnered all the attention – money from AT&T, Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries – were all rapidly confirmed. But there’s a problem. The money doesn’t add up. Or rather there was even more money than Avenatti’s document suggested. A lot more.

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CNBC just reported that AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson is calling hiring Michael Cohen a “big mistake. They are also reporting that their Senior Executive Vice President of External & Legislative Affairs, Bob Quinn, is ‘retiring’. That long title means head of their DC office, where lobbying and all government-facing activities are run out of. Here’s the critical backstory. Jim Cicconi, Quinn’s predecessor, had been in that position for about a decade and was a real player in the DC/Government Relations world. He only left about a year and a half ago. In other words, Quinn just showed up and now he’s out, apparently as fallout from the Michael Cohen debacle.

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This morning I was coming into work after attending my son’s school play and got an email from our editorial staff in DC and NY telling me they’d unanimously agreed to form a union and asking if I would voluntarily recognize their decision. The email was signed “Sincerely, TPM union.” I confess it was novel experience hearing from someone else identifying themselves as ‘TPM’. But I replied that I was happy to do so. I had our lawyer reach out to the WGA, East to formalize that agreement. And that was that.

This afternoon the new TPM Union put out a statement announcing the formation of their union and our agreement to recognize the union. They also asked me for a statement from TPM which they could include in their press release, which I was of course happy to do.

I publish their press release here in its entirety below.

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Now that we’ve learned about Michael Cohen’s payments from corporations and the U.S. subsidiary of a Russian oligarch, we have some more clues about just how the New York-based investigation into Cohen relates to the Special Counsel’s probe where it appears to have originated and when it began.

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One of the silent joys – perhaps not so silent – of the Cohen chapter of the Trump/Russia scandal is observing the discomfiture of big corporations getting dragged into the endlessly sleazy, moronically corrupt world of Michael Cohen. Sources at AT&T insisted they didn’t pay Cohen for access to the President but rather for “actual work done.” No doubt. But the best explanation for hiring Michael Cohen has to go to Korea Aerospace Industries, a firm trying to land a major contract with the Pentagon. They say they hired Cohen “to inform reorganization of our internal accounting system.”

If you’re interested in who Michael Cohen is, how he came to work for Donald Trump, where his money comes from and what network is behind him, you need to listen to this new episode of my podcast. I know that sounds like a high-pressure sale. But trust me: I consider myself a premier Cohen-ologist. But Seth Hettena knew and knows way more than I did not just about Cohen but Trump’s whole universe of Russian/Ukrainian organized crime associates and partners. And he’s got a new book that came out just yesterday. Listen to this episode right here or subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.

In some ways the more fascinating aspect of the fallout from yesterday’s Michael Cohen revelations is seeing Fortune 500 companies struggle to explain how and why they found themselves connected, albeit simply through a shell company, with the President’s payoffs to Stormy Daniels and his fixer’s pay-offs from a Russian oligarch. I think the evolving Novartis story is going to be a good example of the difference between the press release business press and the national political press in full scandal mode. Novartis’s explanation simply makes zero sense – it’s telling that they thought it would survive first contact with any scrutiny. I suspect we’ll find out that that’s the case because it’s a hastily contrived cover story. Even now, the story seems to be evolving toward a more plausible and problematic destination.

Here’s Novartis’s official explanation.

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As I said last night, I think yesterday’s revelations about Michael Cohen and payoffs from a Russian oligarch and from at least two Fortune 500 companies are among the biggest we’ve seen since the beginning of the Russia investigation. With the morning and more follow up reporting, I wanted to walk through precisely what we learned last night.

Let’s begin with some critical background. Michael Cohen has operated his various business operations through numerous shell companies for years. Last night I realized that I could name from memory at least a dozen that I had come across in earlier reporting. Cohen created Essential Consultants LLC in Delaware less than two weeks before he finalized his hush money deal with Stormy Daniels. It appears that EC LLC was created specifically for that purpose.

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