In his ongoing defense of adult film star Stormy Daniels, Michael Avenatti is doing his best to discredit President Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen. He launched another attempt on Sunday, when Avenatti tweeted images of Cohen walking into the elevator with a certain group in Trump Tower shortly after the 2016 presidential election.
Avenatti claims that the group in the elevator with Cohen included a man from Qatar who has been accused of trying to use financial bribes to gain influence in Washington, D.C. According to the lawyer, the photos show Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a Qatari banker, entering a Trump Tower elevator on Dec. 12, 2016 with Cohen and Michael Flynn, who was slated to become Trump's national security advisor and has been accused of wrongfully taking money from foreign governments.
Earlier this month, a lawsuit against a sports investment group that Al-Rumaihi is a part of alleged that Al-Rumaihi tried to bribe his way into a meeting with Steve Bannon in January 2018. "Why was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi meeting with Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn in December 2016 and why did Mr. Al-Rumaihi later brag about bribing administration officials according to a sworn declaration filed in court?" Avenatti tweeted on Sunday.
The lawyer seems to be implying that Cohen could have known about Al-Rumaihi's alleged bribery to gain influence in politics or even accepted bribes himself. Bustle has reached out to Cohen's lawyer, David Schwartz, for comment.
The photo showing Flynn with Cohen is apparently a screenshot from a Live Satellite News video on YouTube, Huff Post reported. The first two images, which Avenatti claims include Al-Rumaihi, are from a C-SPAN live broadcast of the Trump Tower lobby in late 2016.
According to Avenatti, Al-Rumaihi is the man facing the camera on the left of the first photo. As Think Progress notes, he does look like Al-Rumaihi, judging by a 2011 photo published in MuslimJournal.net.
Al-Rumaihi used to be a Qatari diplomat and now leads Qatar Investments, a division within the country's sovereign wealth fund. He also is an investor for Sport Trinity, a sports investment group that put money into a basketball league created by businessman Jeff Kwatinetz and rapper Ice Cube.
Kwatinetz and Ice Cube's case is centered around investments in that basketball league, BIG3. In the court documents, Kwatinetz claims that Al-Rumaihi met with him in January 2018 and offered to pay him to set up a meeting with Bannon. Al-Rumaihi allegedly said that Kwatinetz should "tell Steve Bannon that Qatar would underwrite all of his political efforts in return for his support."
Kwatinetz says that he turned down Al-Rumaihi's offer, at which point the banker allegedly laughed, told Kwatinetz not to be naive, and asked "do you think [Michael] Flynn turned down our money?"
Sport Trinity, a group that includes the Qataris who put money into BIG3, has denied Kwatinetz's claims. In a statement, Sport Trinity said:
Simply put, the statements in Mr. Kwatinetz’s declaration are pure Hollywood fiction. Mr. Kwatinetz is engaging in a xenophobic PR smear campaign against Sport Trinity, the largest investor in BIG3 basketball, to cover up his own mismanagement and erratic behavior with respect to the league. Mr. Kwatinetz’s commercial dispute with Sport Trinity is meritless.
According to Mother Jones, this is the first time it's been reported that Cohen allegedly met with Al-Rumaihi and the other Qataris. But the C-SPAN video has always been public. The network installed a camera in the Trump Tower lobby after the 2016 presidential election and broadcasted a live feed of people coming in and out. C-SPAN's director of communications explained that the purpose of the broadcast was to "let our audience see who is coming and going to meet with the Trump transition team, and watch them speak to the media located in the lobby."
Avenatti's tweet ultimately is meant to raise the question of whether money from Al-Rumaihi somehow landed in one of Trump's adviser's pockets, whether it be Cohen or Flynn — and whether Al-Rumaihi was, in fact, able to influence them and, therefore, the president.
In another attempt to discredit Trump's lawyer, Avenatti tweeted out documents last week revealing that Cohen used a firm with ties to a Russian oligarch to fund the $130,000 he paid Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement between her and Trump.
Correction: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the lawsuit against Sport Trinity. It has been updated to accurately reflect the suit.