Michael Avenatti, the lawyer of porn star Stormy Daniels, released a memo Tuesday detailing what he says is evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen was being paid by a Russian oligarch, perhaps in part for Cohen’s payment of $130,000 to Daniels. The companies at the center of the claim, however, say Avenatti’s allegations are based on false assumptions.
“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[h] with close ties to Mr. Putin,” Avenatti tweeted Tuesday. “These monies may have reimbursed the $130k payment.” Avenatti then published his executive summary of his findings on Cohen’s “suspicious financial transactions”:
In that summary, Avenatti lays out the following details about payments made to Cohen from a company Avenatti alleges was acting as front group for a Russian oligarch:
- From October 2016 through January 2018, Mr. Cohen used his First Republic account to engage in suspicious financial transactions totaling $4,425,033.46.
- 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 multi-national company controlled by Mr. Vekselberg. Renova group holds investments in various interests, including mining, oil, and telecommunications.
However, as the Associated Press reports, the companies at the center of these claims say Avenatti’s connection of their consulting fees to Vekselberg is false.
A spokesman for the Renova Group and Vekselberg told AP in a statement that “neither Victor Vekselberg nor Renova has ever had any contractual relationship with Mr Cohen or Essential Consultants.” For any information on Columbus Nova’s contract with Cohen, the spokesman said, AP would “have to ask Mr Andy Intrater, because Columbus Nova is a company owned and managed by him.”
An attorney for Columbus Nova said in a statement that their deal with Cohen had nothing to do with Vekselberg. Here’s the full statement via NBC News:
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 Cohen 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.
While evidence reviewed by The New York Times and AP appears to confirm Avenatti’s financial figures, AP underscores that his claim that the $500,000 from Columbus Nova partly paid for the Daniels’ NDA is pure speculation and that Avenatti has provided no proof for the claim.
Among the other “suspicious financial transactions” Avenatti lists in his memo are payments by AT&T and Korea Aerospace, both of whom have dismissed any notion of anything sketchy taking place. AP notes that “Avenatti did not reveal the source of his information or release documentation.”