Last summer, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko was eager to meet with Donald Trump, but all his handlers could secure was a White House photo-op. Poroshenko wanted more.
So an ex-aide was tasked with finding a back channel to arrange for a meeting that could be portrayed back home as “talks,” the BBC reports. That aide found his way to Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who was reportedly paid between $400,000 and $600,000 to make the meeting happen.
The BBC reports that even after Poroshenko had begun traveling to Washington and after Cohen had been paid, it wasn’t clear whether he was going to follow through on his commitment:
Cohen’s fee was for getting Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said. But negotiations continued until the early hours of the day of the visit.
The Ukrainian side were angry, the official went on, because Cohen had taken “hundreds of thousands” of dollars from them for something it seemed he could not deliver.
Right up until the last moment, the Ukrainian leader was uncertain if he would avoid humiliation.
Poroshenko ended up getting his meeting, which he later called a “substantial visit.” Then he went home and gave Trump what one BBC source called a “gift”: An anti-corruption investigation into Paul Manafort was effectively killed. The BBC suggests that Poroshenko made the move to help Trump, not because the president asked for it. Trump is also said to have been unaware of the alleged payment to Cohen.
Cohen and the Ukrainians who are believed to have worked with him denied the story to the BBC.