Mueller Wants to Know Why Ford Turned Down Michael Cohen’s Consulting Services

The special counsel has requested records and interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Shortly after Donald Trump became president, his personal attorney Michael Cohen gave Ford Motor Co. a call to offer his consulting services, “touting his proximity to the president,” the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. Unlike AT&T, Novartis, and Columbus Nova, an investment firm tied to a Russian oligarch, the automaker quickly turned down Cohen’s offer. Now, special counsel Robert Mueller wants to know more.

The Journal reported that Mueller’s team has requested records, including emails, and interviewed Ford’s head of government affairs, Ziad Ojakli. Last year, the special counsel’s office sought out information about the combined $1.8 million that AT&T and the pharmaceutical company Novartis paid to Cohen for his services. 

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson called Cohen’s hiring, which came as the telecommunications giant had been trying to get government approval for a merger with Time Warner, “a big mistake” on Friday; the AT&T executive who oversaw the Cohen transaction was forced out. Novartis CEO Vasant Narasimhan also apologized to his employees for dealing with Cohen. The company noted it was apparent after one meeting that Cohen “would be unable to provide the services that Novartis had anticipated related to US healthcare policy matters and the decision was taken not to engage further.”

Cohen’s consulting company, Essential Consultants LLC, is the firm he set up to pay adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her from publicly discussing the affair she says she had with Trump.

Lawmakers are also trying to figure out what these companies have gotten from their contracts with Cohen. Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, sent a letter to Novartis to request documents regarding its relationship with Cohen. So has Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. “This arrangement raises serious concerns about the length Novartis was willing to go in order to curry favor with this Administration, and perhaps more troublingly, what it expected or was promised in return,” the letter noted. 


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.