Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that he had no knowledge of business relationships President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney developed after Trump’s election and characterized the issues as a "private matter."
Michael Cohen, an increasingly central figure in the swirling controversy surrounding the president, has come under fire this week amid allegations that he made millions off of business relationships with companies that included AT&T, Novartis and Columbus Nova, a company linked to Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the U.S. last month. Both AT&T and Novartis have said they were questioned by investigators from the office of special counsel Robert Mueller about their respective payments to Cohen.
“Well, what I can say is that that private matter is something I don't have any knowledge about,” Pence told NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell. “I think the White House issued a statement saying the same.”
The allegations against Cohen came from Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels, who is suing both Cohen and the president in order to be released from a nondisclosure agreement related to a 2006 affair she claims to have had with Trump. Daniels is also separately suing the president for defamation over a Twitter post in which he suggested she made up a 2011 episode in which she was threatened by an unknown man to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story.”
The payments to Cohen were made via Essential Consultants, a shell company controlled by the Trump attorney through which he also paid Daniels $130,000 as part of the nondisclosure agreement she now seeks to void. Cohen has said Trump did not know of the payment, a point later disputed by another Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who said last week that the president reimbursed Cohen last year through retainer fees.
Cohen’s activities appear to be the subject of a federal investigation after the FBI conducted a raid on his office and residences last month based on a “referral” to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from Mueller’s team.
Mueller’s investigation will hit its one year anniversary next week amid calls from Trump’s team for the probe to wrap up. Giuliani said last week that he believed Mueller is “getting sensitive to the fact they’ve gone on a little bit too long” and Pence said Thursday that “in the interest of the country, I think it's time to wrap it up.”