Trump lawyer Michael Cohen 'accepted $500 million from firm linked to Russian oligarch'
US President Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is facing tough questions after it emerged that he may have accepted $500,000 from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch with connections to the Kremlin.
The accusation was first posted in a memo released on Tuesday afternoon by lawyers for former adult actress Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had an extra-marital affair with the President in 2006 and subsequently been paid to keep silent. The document claimed that Cohen had received the payments from a company linked to Viktor Vekselberg, the owner and president of the Renova Group, a large Russian conglomerate.
The firm in question, Columbus Nova, has now accepted that the payment was made, but said it was a consultancy fee and claimed that Vekselberg had no involvement in it. The billionaire is believed to be close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. In April, the Trump administration added him to a list of Russians sanctioned for activities including election interference. However, the payments pre-date the introduction of the sanctions.
It is unclear at this stage how Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, came to possess the documents, but given that it apparently lists the exact dates and amounts of the money transfers, the papers do appear to have come from original banking records.
The memo also listed payments of nearly $400,000 from the Swiss drugmaker Novartis, $150,000 from Korea Aerospace Industries and $200,000 from telecommunications group AT&T. In the wake of the publication, Novartis has announced that it has ended a contract with Essential Consultants, a US company linked to Cohen, and has since cooperated with a special counsel investigation into alleged interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
The allegations come at a time when Cohen is himself already under intense scrutiny, with the special counsel investigation seeking to determine how much Trump's campaign team knew of the matter. Last month the FBI even raided Cohen's home and office, seizing papers and electronic devices.
Mr Cohen is yet to comment on any of the allegations.