A shell company that Michael Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.
The memo, containing highly specific dates and amounts, stated that Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire, and his cousin "routed" eight payments totaling approximately $500,000 to Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, between January and August 2017.
Attempts were unsuccessful to reach Columbus Nova, the U.S. investment vehicle for Vekselberg's Renova Group that Avenatti says made the payment. In an interview last Thursday with Sean Hannity (also a Cohen client), Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said that Trump repaid Cohen $130,000 for the Stormy Daniels payoff - directly contradicting the White House line that Trump knew nothing about Cohen's payments to Daniels.
It's unclear whether Avenatti obtained bank information as part of litigation involving Trump, Cohen and Clifford over the non-disclosure agreement Cohen negotiated.
Avenatti's allegation that Cohen received a significant sum of money from a firm tied to Vekselberg soon after the 2016 election raises questions about Cohen's potential connections to Russian interests, as special counsel Robert Mueller has cast a wide net to investigate potential collusion in the 2016 presidential election. "These monies may have reimbursed the $130k payment", Avenatti tweeted.
"Mr Cohen inexplicably accepted these payments while he was the personal attorney to the president", the document said.
Last month, federal agents searched Cohen's home and office for a range of documents and computer files, including those related to his transactions with Clifford.
Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, talked to reporters outside of federal court in NY on April 26.
A lawyer for Cohen did not respond to a request for comment. Columbus Nova is exclusively owned and controlled by Americans, the company said in a statement.
"The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova's engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue". "Cohen made it go away".
The payments, according to CNN, were made by Vekselberg's company's US affiliate. His cousin Andrew Intrater runs Columbus Nova, which a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission describes as Renova's United States affiliate.
Avenatti also said he discovered four payments of just under $100,000 each by drugmaker Novartis to Essential Consultants, the same company used by Cohen to make payments to Daniels.
Vekselberg was stopped at a New York-area airport earlier this year and interviewed by investigators on special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russian Federation probe MORE's team, which is investigating possible collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.
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