Stormy Daniels during an appearance on "Saturday Night Live."

Will Heath/NBC via AP

Daniels' lawyer says Russian paid Trump attorney Cohen

May 08, 2018 - 7:53 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stormy Daniels' lawyer said Tuesday he has information showing that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime personal attorney, received $500,000 from a Russian billionaire within months of paying hush money to Daniels, a porn star who claims she had a tryst with Trump. He released no documents to support the claim and did not reveal the source of his information.

Lawyer Michael Avenatti released a seven-page memo detailing what he said were wire transfers going into and out of the account Cohen used to pay Daniels $130,000 in October 2016 to stay silent about her alleged affair. Trump denies having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The memo, containing highly specific dates and amounts, stated that Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire, and his cousin "routed" eight payments to Cohen's company, Essential Consultants, between January and August 2017. The reason for the payment was not known.

Speculating without offering proof, the Avenatti memo said, "It appears these funds may have replenished the account following the payment to Ms. Clifford."

Cohen's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"Mr. Cohen inexplicably accepted these payments while he was the personal attorney to the President and holding himself out at times as employed by the Trump Organization," the Avenatti memo said.

At the time of the payments, there was an active FBI counterintelligence investigation — which special counsel Robert Mueller took over last May — into Russian election interference and any possible coordination with Trump associates.

Vekselberg was targeted for U.S. sanctions by the Trump administration last month. He built his fortune, currently estimated by Forbes at $14.6 billion, by investing in the aluminum and oil industries. More recently, he has expanded his assets to include industrial equipment and high technology.

The Avenatti memo also states that hundreds of thousands of dollars streamed into Cohen's account from companies including Novartis, AT&T and Korea Aerospace.

Offering confirmation for at least one of the payments, AT&T said in a statement: "Essential Consultants was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration. They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017."

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