Trump lawyer 'paid by Ukraine' to arrange White House talks

Donald Trump and long-time lawyer Michael Cohen

Donald Trump and long-time lawyer Michael Cohen. Source Associated Press/1 NEWS composite

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's administration demands a refutation of false reports that a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump previous year was "paid by Ukraine".

Federal prosecutors in NY are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, possible campaign law violations and perhaps other matters related to Trump's presidential campaign, a person familiar with the probe has said. One of his partners, Yevgeny Freidman, earlier this week pleaded guilty to tax fraud and agreed to cooperate with state and federal prosecutors.

Nonetheless, Mr. Freidman's agreement to cooperate in his tax fraud case in Albany could have larger implications.

Freidman, known as New York's "Taxi King", was indicted on state charges a year ago by then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who alleged Freidman and others failed to pay $5 million in MTA surcharges between 2012 and 2015.

Trump attorney Michael Cohen denied he was paid by the Ukraine to arrange an Oval Office meeting between its president and Donald Trump.

It's not clear yet what information Freidman can provide authorities, but the New York Times described him as a "significant business partner" of Trump's beleaguered attorney. "Freidman pocketed money that should have provided much-needed investment in our transit system - and now he'll have to pay back every cent".

Mr Cohen is facing a probe by the USA attorney's office in Manhattan, which is examining his business practices. The two charges - announced in March 2018 - could carry prison sentences of 10 and five years, respectively. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood confirmed that he will also pay $5 million in restitution to New York State. Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani later admitted that Trump had repaid Cohen.

But Cohen insisted the press was mischaracterizing their relationship, describing himself as "one of thousands of medallion owners who entrust management companies to operate" their medallions, and concluding his tweet with the hashtag #MediaWrongAgain.

Freidman, once the owner of an estimated 900 medallions, has had financial difficulties since Uber started upending the city's cab industry.

Freidman has also been sued for other shady business acts. Soon after, a government official who leaked the documents to media sources told The New Yorker of concerns that additional such reports were missing from the Treasury Department's "FinCen" database.

Cohen's fee was for getting Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. As part of the deal, Cohen offered up his $9 million Park Ave. apartment, as well as money he might receive from Freidman for managing his taxis, as additional collateral.

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