After Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti released Michael Cohen’s banking records this week revealing that he’d taken payoffs from AT&T and Novartis, the big question was whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller already knew about it. Novartis quickly confirmed it had already discussed the matter with Mueller, so the answer was “yes.” But it’s the response from AT&T that tells us Mueller is far ahead of where we thought.
AT&T now says that Robert Mueller contacted the company about the payments to Michael Cohen “late last year.” Wait a minute here. This means Mueller didn’t learn about it from last month’s FBI raid against Cohen; he knew about it long before that. It also means that Mueller has been investigating the Trump money trail flowing through Cohen since at least six months ago – long before the Stormy Daniels payoff surfaced and he referred it to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.
So much for the belief that Michael Cohen had only recently become a subject of the Trump-Russia investigation, or that Mueller was being hands-off with him. Clearly, Mueller has been targeting Cohen for quite some time. If Mueller learned about these bribe payments via Cohen’s banking records, it means he subpoenaed those records sometime last year. In turn that means he already had enough evidence against Cohen last year to convince a judge to sign off on that subpoena.
So why didn’t Robert Mueller arrest Michael Cohen back when he was rounding up the likes of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates last year? That’s the tricky part: we don’t know. But we do know that Mueller has been targeting Cohen for a very long time, and that much of what we’re just now learning about Cohen is old news to Mueller. It raises the question of how much more Mueller knows about Cohen that no one has yet made public. It also shifts the timeline yet again, and tells us Mueller is at least six months ahead of where we thought he was.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report