Firm with ties to Russian oligarch allegedly made payments to Trump's attorney

Posted May 09, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team of investigators is probing whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russian Federation in the 2016 election, and whether he illegally tried to obstruct the investigation.

According to media reports, the Russian businessmen allegedly transferred some $500,000 to former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen's company Essential Consultants in a series of payments after the November 2016 election.

Vekselberg was among 7 Kremlin-linked oligarchs the Trump administration slapped with sanctions in April.

In the report, which was released late Tuesday, Avenatti further claims the shell company used to facilitate the payment from Cohen to Daniels, Essential Consultants, LLC, was "exclusively owned and controlled by Mr. Cohen".

Later in the report, CNN cited unnamed sources who said Mueller's investigators questioned Vekselberg about $300,000 in political donations made by Intrater. One of that firm's biggest clients is a company helmed by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

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Cohen's home, office and hotel were raided recently as part of a months-long criminal probe.

Clifford is suing Cohen and Trump to break her nondisclosure agreement related to the $130,000, and Avenatti has asserted that Cohen's use of Essential Consultants to make the payment potentially violated banking laws.

The report released by Avenatti on Tuesday also said that Cohen's account received roughly $500,000 in payments from Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was one of several Russian nationals and entities hit by US sanctions in April in response to what the Trump administration said were broad, destabilizing activities by Moscow.

Mr. Cohen inexplicably accepted these payments while he was the personal attorney to the President and holding himself out at times as employed by the Trump Organization (with few other clients).

The bombshell in the report spotlighted $500,000 paid by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, with close ties to Russia's authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin, after the election.

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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, talked to reporters outside of federal court in NY on April 26.

In a statement by Columbus Nova's attorney, the company categorically denied any wrong doing.

An attorney for the company said the money was for a consulting fee and was unconnected to Vekselberg, The Times reported. "The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova's engagement of Michael Coehn is patently untrue".

Avenatti did not provide details of sources for his information, which the Guardian has not independently verified.

The FBI also collected recordings Cohen made of his conversations with lawyer Keith Davidson, who previously represented two women - Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal.

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"The agreement was used to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her about an affair despite already having signed a detailed letter admitting that there was no affair", Trump wrote on Twitter.