The documents suggest Mr Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen received money from a Russian business. (Reuters: Stephanie Keith, file)
A lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels claims US President Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen was paid $US500,000 ($672,000) by a company with ties to a Russian oligarch.
- Stormy Daniels’ lawyer claims to have details of payments to Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen
- Payment of $500,000 allegedly came from a company linked to Russian businessman Viktor Vekelsberg
- The payments went to the same shell company that was used to pay Ms Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Mr Trump in 2006
In a tweet and a report, attorney Michael Avenatti said a US-based company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, a businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sent Mr Cohen the payment.
It was not immediately clear how Mr Avenatti would know of any payments made to Mr Cohen.
Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said Mr Cohen paid her $US130,000 in October 2016 to stay quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter she had with Mr Trump.
Michael Avenatti tweet: “After significant investigation, we have discovered that Mr. Trump’s atty Mr. Cohen received approximately $500,000 in the mos. after the election from a company controlled by a Russian Oligarc with close ties to Mr. Putin. These monies may have reimbursed the $130k payment.”
Last month Mr Vekselberg was hit with sanctions to punish Moscow for activities that included suspected meddling in the 2016 US election.
The disclosures could add to pressure on Mr Cohen, whose house, office and hotel room were raided by the FBI a month ago as part of a criminal investigation into the hush payment and other business dealings.
Documents show eight payments
Mr Avenatti said Mr Vekselberg and his cousin, Andrew Intrater, made eight transfers to Mr Cohen between January and August 2017 through a US-based company called Columbus Nova LLC.
A lawyer for Columbus Nova said Mr Vekselberg had nothing to do with the transactions.
Columbus Nova was listed by Renova Group as one of its companies as of November 2017, according to an archived webpage for Renova, whose website now says it is under construction. Renova Group is a conglomerate controlled by Mr Vekselberg.
Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels lawyer, says the documents showed payments to Mr Cohen by a Russian business and other companies. (AP: Seth Wong)
The United States imposed sanctions last month on Mr Vekselberg and Renova to retaliate for the Kremlin’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election and other “malign activity.”
The New York Times reported last week that Mr Vekselberg was questioned by US agents earlier this year as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and possible collusion by Mr Trump’s campaign.
Russia denies US intelligence agencies’ accusations it meddled in the election, and Mr Trump has denied any collusion. He also denies having had an affair with Ms Daniels.
Mr Cohen hired after inauguration
Mr Vekselberg and Mr Intrater could not be reached for comment, but Richard Owens, a lawyer for Columbus Nova, said in a statement the company hired Mr Cohen after Mr Trump’s January 2017 inauguration “as a business consultant regarding sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures.”
Mr Owens said Columbus Nova was solely owned by Americans and that any claim that Mr Vekselberg was involved in providing funding for the payments to Mr Cohen was “patently untrue.”
Mr Avenatti also detailed payments he said were made to Mr Cohen by US telecommunications company AT&T, Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG and Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd . He said all the payments were made in late 2017 and early 2018.
“There are too many unknowns to reach conclusions as to whether anything involved with these transactions was illegal,” said Michael Zeldin, a money-laundering expert and former federal prosecutor who is now a legal analyst on CNN.
The company is linked to Viktor Vekselberg, but a lawyer said he had nothing to do with the transactions. (Reuters: Sergei Karpukhin)
AT&T confirmed the payments, saying they were aimed at gaining “insights” into the new administration.
AT&T has been pursuing an $US85 billion takeover of Time Warner, which the US Justice Department is trying to stop.
Mr Avenatti also said he discovered four payments of just under $US100,000 each by Novartis to Essential Consultants, the same company used by Mr Cohen to make payments to Ms Daniels.
A Novartis representative said: “Any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current [chief executive] taking office in February of this year and have expired.”
AT&T said Essential Consultants was one of several firms it “engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration” but that it received no legal or lobbying services from Mr Cohen’s firm.
AT&T said the contract ended in December 2017.