In recent months, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump administration has focused on a broad web of payments from foreign governments and corporations to major players in Donald Trump’s orbit. Primary among them are Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, and Elliott Broidy, a businessman and major Trump fundraiser.
After Trump won the election, both men were named deputy finance chairmen of the Republican National Committee, and quietly began making deals. Cohen signed up corporations including Novartis and AT&T, plus the government of Ukraine and an investment fund linked to a sanctioned Russian billionaire, to provide access and “insight” about the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Broidy won huge deals for his security firm Circinus, largely by working with Lebanese-American businessman and convicted pedophile George Nader to advance the interests of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in Washington.
Cohen and Broidy didn’t begin with much in common. Cohen was a graduate of an unheralded law school, personal injury attorney, and investor in New York City taxi medallions who made himself essential to the Trump business empire as a fixer. Broidy was a polished money manager used to wielding political connections, and not always legally: He was convicted on a felony bribery charge in 2009 that was later downgraded to a misdemeanor.
Their names became forever linked in unlikely fashion when it was revealed that Cohen set up Broidy’s payment of $1.6 million to a former Playboy Playmate—purportedly to buy her silence for an affair she had with Broidy, though some observers have cast doubt on that story.
The revelations that have followed that bombshell, plus the leak of Broidy’s hacked emails, reveal how the two men cashed in on their proximity to the White House. It’s fitting that Broidy’s firm Circinus is named after the Latin word for a draftsman’s compass—he and Cohen moved in some very interesting circles.
The timeline below is organized by country, with an additional section for payments between Broidy and Cohen. You can read from top to bottom, or jump directly to any of the countries involved. This article will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.
Mid-2017: According to leaked emails, Broidy discusses with his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, a plan to pitch a consulting contract to Jho Low. He’s a Malaysian businessman at the center of the 1MDB state investment fund embezzlement scandal, which earlier this month helped bring down prime minister Najib Razak. Rosenzweig’s law firm is eventually hired by Pras Michel, formerly of The Fugees and a friend of Low, “to provide strategic advice” to the controversial mogul.
Aug. 7, 2017: Broidy emails a colleague at his venture-capital firm, with the subject line “Malaysia Talking Points *Final* ahead of Najib’s visit to the White House, recommending that Najib “make it clear that Malaysia fully backed U.S. efforts to isolate North Korea.”
September 12, 2017: Trump meets with Najib, and says: “He does not do business with North Korea any longer. We find that to be very important.”
January 19, 2017: Broidy invites Liviu Dragnea, leader of the country’s Social Democratic Party, to meet Trump at a private party at the Trump International Hotel during inauguration week, McClatchy reported. Asked to support stronger US-Romanian ties, Trump said: “We will make it happen! Romania is important for us!” Trump said, according to Dragnea’s Facebook post (link in Romanian).
Sept. 19 2017: Broidy meets with Romanian defense minister Mihai Fifor during Fifor’s visit to the US, according to McClatchy.
February 1, 2018 Circinus signs a deal “with a Romanian government-owned defense company that appears to give it the inside track for contracts valued at more than $200 million,” the New York Times reports. McClatchy reports that the deal was signed “in the presence of US ambassador Hans Klemm.”
January 9, 2017: Michael Cohen meets with Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, a close Putin associate who was later sanctioned by the United States, at Trump Tower, according to video footage reviewed by CNN and the New York Times. They discuss “a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump,” the Times reports. Vekselberg also met with Cohen at the inauguration and in one other instance.
late January, 2017: Cohen is awarded a $1 million consulting contract by Columbus Nova, which counts Vekselberg as its biggest client and is seen as an extension of his Renova Group conglomerate. Columbus Nova is run by Vekselberg’s cousin, Andrew Intrater, who was also in the Trump Tower meeting..
January, 2017: Broidy reportedly pitches Russian gas company Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan to help it get off a US sanctions list, through Broidy’s firm Fieldcrest Advisors.
May 8, 2018: Banking documents posted by Michael Avenatti, attorney for adult film actress Stormy Daniels, show that Cohen received $580,000 in “consulting fees” from Columbus Nova, plus a number of payments from Broidy and corporations including AT&T and Novartis.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE
Aug. 3, 2016: George Nader, Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel, and Blackwater founder Erik Prince meet with Donald Trump Jr. and Trump advisor Stephen Miller at Trump Tower. Nader, Zamel, and Prince told the president’s oldest son “that the princes who led Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were eager to help his father win election as president,” the New York Times reported.
April 2, 2017: Nader asks Broidy to invoice his Dubai-based company for $2.5 million as part of their campaign to lobby Trump to back the Saudis and Emiratis over their regional archenemies, Qatar and Iran.
October 6, 2017: Broidy emails Nader “a summary of Broidy’s talks with Kushner and Trump in the White House” on the UAE’s behalf. Broidy talks to Trump about secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who had criticized the Gulf state campaign against Qatar, saying that “Rex was performing poorly and should be relieved but only at a good time, politically.” (Tillerson was fired in March 2018.)
December 2, 2017: Broidy meets with Trump to again discuss the UAE-Saudi case against Qatar. Several days later, Broidy’s intelligence firm Circinus is awarded a $600 million contract with the UAE, the AP reports.
December 27, 2017: Broidy’s wife falls prey to a phishing attack, given attackers access to a Google spreadsheet filled with passwords.
January 17, 2018: Broidy tells Nader he received the first installment of $36 million from UAE.
Mid-January: Nader is stopped by FBI agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller at Dulles airport in Washington, on his way to Mar-a-Lago. He subsequently agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
January 16: Hackers begin to access Broidy’s emails, according to a lawsuit he later filed.
February 25: Hacker access to Broidy’s email ends, according to his lawsuit
March 26: Broidy sues Qatar after the New York Times, AP, and other media outlets begin to write stories about his leaked emails.
June 20, 2018: Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko reportedly meets with Donald Trump at the White House, after Ukrainian officials paid at least $400,000 to Michael Cohen to set up the talks, according to the BBC. After the meeting, the Ukrainian government suspends its investigation into Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
November 30, 2017: Broidy wires $200,000 to Real Estate Attorneys’ Group, controlled by attorney Keith Davidson, who represents former Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard.
December 5, 2017: REAG wires $200,000 to Keith Davidson
January 2, 2018: REAG wires $62,500 to Essential Consultants, a shell company controlled by Michael Cohen
April 13: The Wall Street Journal reports that Broidy used Cohen to pay Bechard $1.6 million over two years in quarterly installments. CNBC reported that Cohen also received $250,000 for negotiating and handling the deal.