The Jury Talks Back

5/9/2018

Russian Oligarch’s Firm Paid Cash to Trump Fixer Michael Cohen, and Mueller Wants to Know Why

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 7:31 am

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A company created by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, received $500,000 in 2017 from an investment fund linked to a Russian oligarch, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Separately, AT&T Inc. said it made payments to Mr. Cohen’s company in 2017 for “insights” into the administration at a time when the telecommunications giant needed government approval for an $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc.

Oddly, both AT&T and the investment fund funneled — can I say “funneled,” Rudy? Is that cool? Great! — funneled their payments to Essential Consultants LLC. The, uh, same company that paid off Stormy Daniels.

This doesn’t mean that the Russians were the ones who paid off Daniels, of course. Because Daniels’s attorney seemed to know about the investment fund’s payment before the news broke, and alleged a connection, some speculated about that possibility — but if Mueller had evidence that the Russians had paid off Stormy, it seems (at least at first blush) counterintuitive that he would have handed off the Cohen investigation to the Southern District of New York.

Regardless of any Stomy connection, Mueller’s investigators are interested in the payments from the Russian oligarch’s U.S. affiliate:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments his company’s US affiliate made to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after the election, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of asset manager Renova Group, is an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, and last month the Trump administration placed him on a list of sanctioned Russians for activities including election interference. The purpose of the payments, which predate the sanctions, and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen is unclear.

When you see things like “linked to” and “US affiliate” you want to know more, of course. The Daily Beast has more on the connection between Vekselberg and Columbus Nova, which made the payments:

In a statement, Columbus Nova lawyer Richard Owens of Latham & Watkins insisted that Vekselberg did not have a controlling interest in the firm. “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 in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova’s engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue,” Owens said. “Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else outside of Columbus Nova was involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement.”

However, up until Tuesday night, Columbus Nova’s own website described the company is “the U.S. investment vehicle for the Renova Group”—Vekselberg’s asset-management firm. The site also noted that Intrater “is a former Director and current Member of the Executive Board of Renova Group.” (That page of the site was suddenly removed early Wednesday morning.)

In addition, Columbus Nova was listed on the website for the Renova Group as one of its “companies” until late last year, as NBC News reported. (That website is currently “under construction.”)

(Intrater is Vekselberg’s cousin. He runs Columbus Nova.)

As for AT&T, it does not appear that Cohen did legal or lobbying work for AT&T. They paid the president’s fixer for insights, is all. You see.

Caveat lector: every story on this seems sourced to a single person “familiar with the matter.” It’s apparently not Avenatti, since the Beast quotes the source as bewildered at how Avenatti found out. (Which could mean that the source told Avenatti and wanted to pretend like he hadn’t.) But it is worth noting that the New York Times says they have reviewed financial records that confirm the payments. So there’s that.

Whether the payments are illegal in any way, I can’t say. But man, does this look swampy.

1 Comment »

  1. This looks swampy as heck to me too. (assuming for the moment it’s true)

    I don’t think it’s illegal, but I think it should be; this is basically the political equivalent of insider trading.

    I do however think it’s pertinent to wonder if Trump knew. Would he really risk a major scandal just so his lawyer could make some $$$? I don’t think we can just assume he was aware, or for that matter not aware, of this.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 5/9/2018 @ 7:30 pm

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