Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti dropped a bombshell today: Trump fixer Michael Cohen allegedly took $500,000 from a Russian oligarch over the course of eight payments made between January and August 2017.
It’s not clear how Avenatti obtained the information. The top of the report includes this disclaimer: “Note: This information is true and correct as of the date of this Preliminary Report of Findings (May 8, 2018) to the best of our knowledge. Additional information is being obtained on a near daily basis. The below information and findings, therefore, are subject to change.”
The Daily Beast confirmed the Vekselberg payments in its own story. “How the fuck did Avenatti find out?” a source reportedly asked the Daily Beast. And according to CNN, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed Vekselberg in connection with the payments.
According to Avenatti, the payments were made through the private equity firm Columbus Nova, whose CEO is Vekselberg’s American cousin Andrew Intrater, to an LLC that Cohen set up, Essential Consultants. Essential Consultants was also the LLC through which he paid Daniels $130,000 prior to the 2016 election, as a hush money payment about her alleged affair with Donald Trump. (Columbus Nova was also previously a minority investor in Gawker Media Group, which owned several Gizmodo Media Group properties before its bankruptcy in 2016.)
The $500,000 wasn’t the end of it; in all, Avenatti says that Cohen was engaged in “suspicious financial transactions” totaling over $4.4 million between October 2016 and January 2018. This number includes AT&T, which made four payments of $50,000 each between October 2017 and January of this year to Cohen’s LLC, as well as pharmaceutical giant Novartis, which allegedly paid Essential Consultants just under $400,000 over the same period. In addition, Avenatti also said that Korea Aerospace Industries paid Essential $150,000 in a one-time transaction last November.
AT&T confirmed the payments in a statement:
Splinter sent a request for comment to Novartis; Eric Althoff, who is Novartis’ global head of media relations, emailed us back to say that the company has no comment yet, but that “any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current CEO taking office in February of this year and have expired.”
Vekselberg was stopped at an airport in New York earlier this year and questioned by federal agents, and CNN notes that Vekselberg was placed on a list of Russians sanctioned for electoral interference last month, after the last of the payments were made.
You can read Avenatti’s summary below: