I read the plea agreement and was mystified. It has been known for months that the National Enquirer paid Woman #1 (I forget her real name) for the exclusive rights to her story and that Cohen paid Woman #2 (Stormy Daniels) for a non-disclosure agreement. Democrats have been claiming that these hush money payoffs were illegal campaign contributions, but that theory is tenuous.
The mystifying news in the plea agreement was that before the election, Cohen bought the rights to the non-disclosure portion – not the story rights, which the Enquirer kept – of the Enquirer’s agreement by paying the Enquirer’s back their entire cost for the full agreement. Then after the election, Cohen sold the Enquirer the rights to the non-disclosure agreements of both Woman #1 and Stormy Daniels at his own cost, plus a tax gross-up payment that doubled the price to the Enquirer, plus a substantial fee for himself.
Has anybody offered an explanation for this odd series of payments? Why did the Enquirer sell the Woman #1 rights to Cohen in the first place, since buying them back with a tax gross-up made it much more expensive to them than just keeping the rights to the story? Why did they also buy Stormy Daniels’ NDA from him, again along with a tax gross-up? Why did they pay Cohen a big fixer fee for the trivial amount of work that he performed in buying and selling back the NDA rights? I haven’t yet thought of a good reason why they would do that. The plea agreement says that the buybacks were prearranged before the election, which could arguably be a campaign violation, rather than after the election, which certainly would not be a campaign contribution (although of course we have only Cohen’s word for that). But it never offers any purpose for the buybacks were arranged in the first place.
Another odd thing about the plea agreement is that Trump has stated publicly that he paid Cohen back for the Stormy Daniels buyout. Reports that I read back when Cohen was arrested said that Cohen had originally complained to many people that Trump had stiffed him and refused to pay him back, but that ultimately Trump had relented and paid him back. So did Cohen get paid twice for the Stormy Daniels rights, once by Trump and another time by the Enquirer?
In fact, I suspect that Cohen may have been paid three times. Like many people, I have always been suspicious of the fact that the same lawyer represented both women. How did two women who didn’t know anything about each other happen to find their way to the same lawyer, who happens to be a known crook, and who both women claim pocketed more in fees than he disclosed to them? My working theory has been that Cohen had a secret fee-sharing deal with the other lawyer. Cohen found out about the women and then either steered them to the lawyer or steered the lawyer to them so that he and the other lawyer would both make a profit settling the cases. If that’s true, then Cohen got a fee from the other lawyer, a fee from Trump and a fee from the Enquirer, all for the same deal.
I can’t be the only person wondering about these things. Is anybody in the media talking about them? (As I said, I haven’t read or heard anything, so maybe the answers to these questions are known to everybody but me.)