In a bombshell report released on Tuesday afternoon, Stormy Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, claims that President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, received $500,000 from a company run by a Russian oligarch just months after the 2016 election. He further implies that those funds may have been used to pay Cohen back for the $130,000 payment the lawyer made to Daniels in hush money over her alleged affair with the president. The oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, was recently interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about the funds sent to Cohen, a source tells CNN.
In the report he tweeted out, Cohen made the following the claims about the funds allegedly funneled via a U.S.-based private equity firm controlled by Vekselberg, a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin:
Chief among these suspicious financial transactions are approximately $500,000 in payments received from Mr. Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch with an estimated net worth of nearly $13 billion. Mr. Vekselberg and his cousin Mr. Andrew Intrater routed eight payments to Mr. Cohen through a company named Columbus Nova LLC (“Columbus”) beginning in January 2017 and continuing until at least August 2017.
Columbus Nova is a private equity firm founded in 2000 with over $2 billion in assets. Mr. Intrater is the CEO of Columbus Nova. Columbus Nova is the U.S. investment vehicle for Renova Group, a multinational company controlled by Mr. Vekselberg. Renova group holds investments in various interests, including mining, oil, and telecommunications.
Reached for comment by the Atlantic‘s Natasha Bertrand, Cohen’s attorney, Steve Ryan, wouldn’t discuss the $500,000, only saying, “I understand the shorthand you’re using, but it wasn’t a payment,” before hanging up. Intrater, who contributed $250,000 to the Trump inaugural fund and $35,000 to Trump’s re-election fund, did not return calls from Fast Company left at his firm’s Manhattan office.
UPDATE: In a statement emailed to Fast Company after publication, Columbus Nova attorney Richard Owens wrote:
“Columbus Nova is a management company solely owned and controlled by Americans. After the inauguration, the firm hired Michael Cohen as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures. Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Coehn [sic] is patently untrue. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Nova’s owners, were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”