If your head is spinning over the big Michael Cohen story from Wednesday, know you aren’t alone — I sleep during the day so this sort of thing usually hits me all at once at like 5 p.m. and it’s a lot. Seth Meyers devoted his entire “A Closer Look” segment to the ordeal on Wednesday night, and he knows that it looks very bad.
The short version, for those who aren’t caught up, goes like this: you may recall that Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen set up a shell company through which he handled the Stormy Daniels payout back in 2016, and it turned out that he kept using that shell company, called Essential Consultants, LLC, to take payments from a Russian oligarch, and also multiple American corporations, including AT&T and Novartis, as he positioned himself as a sort of gatekeeper to the Trump administration. For the long version, you can read the New York Times story that explains everything right here.
Anyway, Seth Meyers tried his best to contextualize this whole thing through comedy on Wednesday’s “Late Night.”
“So now this story involves a Russian oligarch funneling massive sums of money into a secret shell company controlled by the president’s lawyer. What doesn’t this story have? At this point, I’m honestly expecting Robert Mueller to rip off his mask and say, ‘Gotcha, Donald, it was me the whole time!’ ” Meyers said as an image of Hillary Clinton appeared on-screen.
“You know, I bet when Trump had sex with a porn star, he thought it was gonna be awesome and have zero consequences. But what he didn’t realize is porn movies end, but real life doesn’t. The last few weeks of Trump’s life have been after the part after the end of the porno. The part you never see where the angry husband comes home and says, ‘Who the hell is this?’ And the wife’s like, ‘Uh, he’s the pizza guy.’ And the husband’s like, ‘You slept with the pizza guy?’ And the pizza guy is like, ‘I, uh, should go.’ And then the pizza place calls and says, ‘We’re getting complaints from customers.’ And he says, ‘I’m sorry, I had sex with the lady who ordered the pizza.’ And they said, ‘What? You’re fired.’ And he said, ‘You can’t fire me. I have bills to pay.’ And the next thing you know, to make ends meet, the pizza guy is laundering money through a shell company from an oligarch with ties to Putin.”
After that lengthy joke comparison, Meyers discussed the strange way this story broke — with a tweet from Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti — and how troubling it was that the members of Congress who were supposed to be looking into this kind of stuff drew a blank on it.
“This is the kind of thing Congress is supposed to be investigating. Instead, we’re only finding out about it because Trump hired one dumb lawyer [Michael Cohen] to set up a shell company and another dumber lawyer [Rudy Giuliani] to go on TV and lie about it. Giuliani and Cohen are like Cellino and Barnes if instead of fighting asbestos, they snorted it,” Meyers said, referring to the personal injury attorney duo who are best known for their TV ads that ended in a really dopey and memorable jingle.
“These two are like personal injury attorneys who insist on doing their own commercials. ‘Have you been in an accident? Are you suffering from head trauma and memory loss? Well, so are we. We forgot what we learned in law school. but we’ll fight for you in court if we can remember how to get there.’ ”
Meyers then took aim at the companies on this side of the pond who also were throwing money at Cohen’s fake company.
“This story keeps getting crazier, because it wasn’t just the Russian oligarch who was sending money to the secret shell company. The New York Times reported that transactions adding up to at least $4.4 million flowed through essential consultants, starting shortly before Trump was elected president and continuing to this January. $4.4 million. So who else was doing business with this shady LLC? Other Russians? Mafia kingpins? Porn producers? Well, it turns out, AT&T made four payments totaling $200,000 between October 2017 and January 2018. And it just so happens that AT&T has a proposed merger with Time Warner pending before the justice department,” Meyers said. “So there’s only two possible explanations. Either AT&T was trying to secretly influence administration policy by funneling money to a shell company. Or AT&T also had an affair with Stormy Daniels. ‘Hey girl, how about I come to your place sometime between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.?’
“Now after the news broke, AT&T issued a super unconvincing statement that tried claim the contract with Cohen’s company was above board. They said, ‘Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration.’ ‘Understanding the new administration’? If you were making secret payments to a shell company owned by the president’s fixer, it sounds like you understood the new administration just fine.”
After noting also that Novartis and Korea Aerospace Industries as being among the other companies participating in what Cohen had going on, Meyers posed a question:
“How do these companies even know about Essential Consultants? Remember, this company was set up in secret just weeks before the election to make a hush payment to a porn star. Who told these companies to send their money to this secret shell company? Because the way these guys blab, if they had wanted to advertise it, they would have,” Meyers joked. “Cohen probably would have taken out billboards. ‘Want to do corruption? Call 1-800-CRIMES. Ask for Soggy Mike.’ ”
And then Meyers wrapped up the discussion with a Rudy Giuliani zinger.
“Now we don’t know yet whether any of this was illegal. But it’s obviously extremely shady. At the very least, it exposes a whole new world of corrupt influence peddling in the Trump orbit,” Meyers said. “And it would also be consistent with something Giuliani has been hinting at in his public appearances. He keeps telling people the Stormy Daniels payment wasn’t a campaign finance violation because it wasn’t an isolated incident, that Cohen handled things like this for Trump on a regular basis. Which isn’t a great argument. ‘You can’t charge me with murder. I kill people all the time!’ ”
You can watch all of “A Closer Look” from Wednesday’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in the video embedded at the top of this post.