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Michael Cohen freed up $700,000 in potential loans ahead of the election. Then he paid Stormy Daniels.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Cohen took part in two financial transactions in the lead-up to the 2016 election that gave him access to as much as $774,000.

Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaves the United States District Court Southern District of New York on April 26, 2018 in New York City.
Michael Cohen, longtime personal lawyer and confidante for President Donald Trump, leaves the United States District Court Southern District of New York on April 26, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

Michael Cohen took part in two financial transactions in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election that gave him access to as much as $774,000, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Cohen, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is under federal criminal investigation and at the center of several stories involving payoffs to women who claim to have had relationships with the president — namely, porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

In February 2016, Cohen increased the amount he could use on a bank credit line tied to his apartment at Trump Park Avenue in Manhattan by $245,000. He and his wife, Laura, opened a $500,000 home-equity credit line at First Republic Bank and weeks later closed out an old home-equity line for $255,000 with TD Bank, essentially doubling what he could borrow.

A few months earlier in November 2015, Cohen gained potential access to another $529,000 through a new $2 million mortgage he and his wife cosigned with her parents at Trump World Tower, also in New York. Cohen and his wife hadn’t signed prior mortgages on the property.

It’s important because it could indicate he was trying to free up funds that would eventually used to pay Daniels. Cohen has previously said he used a home loan to make the $130,000 payment.

According to WSJ, the transactions — which the publication uncovered in public records — could factor into the investigation into Cohen’s business affairs underway by Manhattan federal prosecutors and the FBI. The FBI raided his office, home, and hotel room in April and seized documents related to Daniels, McDougal, and Cohen’s New York City taxi medallions. The Justice Department has confirmed he is under criminal investigation.

The Stormy Daniels payout is the story Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time fixer, can’t make go away.

Cohen, Trump’s “fix-it guy” who has said in the past that he would “take a bullet” for the president, has become an increasingly significant figure in recent months in the public conversation surrounding Trump. It all began in January when the Wall Street Journal reported in January that Cohen had paid $130,000 to porn actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, ahead of the election to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.

Critics have said the payment could run afoul of federal election laws, and the White House has often changed its story about how Cohen made the payout, why he made it, and what Trump knew about the money. This week, former New York City mayor and newly appointed Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment — a new revelation, as Trump denied knowledge of the payout as recently as April. The New York Times reported on Friday that Trump has known about the hush money for months.

Cohen was also allegedly involved in a National Enquirer deal with McDougal, the former Playboy model, in which the publication paid her $150,000 for the rights to her story on her alleged affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007 and then never published it.

“If he didn’t anticipate using these funds to assist with these types of third-party payments, then why did he still have the funds to pay Stormy Daniels if they were intended for some earlier, innocuous purpose?” Adam Schuman, a former federal prosecutor, told WSJ.

Prosecutors are reportedly engaged in a broad effort to figure out how Cohen got access to cash and what he did with it, including whether he inflated the value of his assets to get higher loans or lied about their intended purposes.

Trump has consistently defended Cohen, and after Giuliani’s reimbursement revelation this week, he said in a series of tweets he had indeed reimbursed Cohen but that it was not a campaign finance violation. (It very well may have been.) But the pressure on the 51-year-old New Yorker is increasing, not subsiding.

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