The scandals surrounding President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and apparent fixer, Michael Cohen, seem to be increasing with each passing day.
What started out as a controversy about Cohen allegedly violating elections laws to pay $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to make sure she didn't speak out about her alleged affair with the commander-in-chief has now turned into a federal investigation as it was revealed the lawyer once reportedly received $500,000 from company controlled by a Russian oligarch who has very close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti was the first to disclose the alleged payment, which was then confirmed by several media publications — including The New York Times, the Daily Beast and The Washington Post. According to the reports, investment firm Columbus Nova — which describes itself as a “the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group” — deposited the amount in the account of the same shell company that Cohen established to give the hush money to Trump’s alleged mistress.
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.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 8, 2018
This reportedly took place right after the 2016 presidential election.
The Renova Group is chaired by one of the richest man in Russia, Viktor Vekselberg.
“Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017,” read the dossier published by Avenatti.
The documents claimed Cohen received the money “within approximately 75 days” of the payment he made to the adult actress.
What makes this even more interesting is the Trump administration has since placed Vekselberg under U.S. sanction while Intrater was a significant Republican National Committee donor who reportedly gave a quarter-million dollars to Trump’s inaugural committee and donated $35,000 to his reelection campaign in June 2017.
As reported by CNN, special counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating if Trump campaign colluded with Kremlin operatives to influence the presidential election, also questioned Vekselberg about the money.
According to the documents that have since been revealed, Columbus Nova sent eight payments to Cohen through a business account the attorney had set up at First Republic Bank in October 2016 for his company, Essential Consultants.
“We have a lot of tools in our toolbox that we use in connection with our cases,” Avenatti told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, confirming he had been working on this “diligently for many, many months.”
He also demanded Cohen release his bank statements.
“This thing is a pig. They can try to put lipstick on a pig — tonight, next week, next month — but it’s still going to be a pig,” the lawyer added. “If there’s nothing to hide here and it’s all above board and it’s all legit, then the documents will prove that out. People lie, documents don’t. Period.”
It is also important to mention Cohen’s company also received $1.2 million from Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis and $200,000 from AT&T.
Meanwhile, Columbus Nova told The Guardian it hired Cohen “as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate.”
However, it also claimed Vekselberg had nothing to do with the alleged payments.
“Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false,” Columbus Nova lawyer Richard Owens of Latham & Watkins told the Daily Beast. “The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters, Jeenah Moon