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Stormy Daniels lawyer alleges Donald Trump's personal attorney received payments from Russian oligarch

Michael Cohen allegedly received millions from businessman with close ties to Vladimir Putin

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Wednesday 09 May 2018 14:28 BST
Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City
Michael Cohen leaves federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York City (Reuters)

Donald Trump‘s personal attorney allegedly received money from a Russian oligarch linked to Vladimir Putin, according to the lawyer representing the adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is suing the president.

Michael Avenatti claimed Michael Cohen was involved with $4.4m (£3.25m) worth of “suspicious financial transactions” between October 2016 – shortly before the presidential election – and January 2018. He made the claim in a document released via his Twitter account.

Mr Avenatti is representing Stormy Daniels, who is suing Mr Trump over a non-disclosure agreement.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges she had sex with the US leader in 2006. She is suing the president and Mr Cohen to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement which she has claimed is void because the president did not personally sign it.

While Mr Cohen ultimately acknowledged having “facilitated” the $130,000 payment to Ms Daniels in October 2016 – one month before voters went to the polls – he has said neither the Trump campaign nor the Trump Organization were parties to the payment. But the transaction has attracted scrutiny for potentially violating campaign finance law.

Last week, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently joined Mr Trump’s legal team, claimed the president had reimbursed Michael Cohen for the payoff. His comments appeared to contradict Mr Trump distancing himself from the alleged hush money.

Without specifying what he got wrong, Mr Trump later said Mr Giuliani was new to the job and “wasn’t familiar with everything”. He did not specify what he thought his new attorney had got wrong.

In a subsequent statement, Mr Giuliani said “the payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family,” adding: ”My references to timing were not describing my understanding of the president’s knowledge, but instead, my understanding of these matters.”

Mr Avenatti’s document claims that $500,000 of the $4.4m that flowed through an account controlled by Mr Cohen, came from a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian national with close ties to his country’s president.

It does not explain where he got the information from, although he tweeted that the information was the product of a “significant investigation”.

An attorney for Mr Cohen did not respond to a request for comment from The Independent.

Mr Vekselberg’s name appeared last month on a US Treasury Department list of Russian oligarchs. Treasury secretary Steven T Mnuchin last month, alleged they profited from a “corrupt system” of government whose activities include “attempting to subvert Western democracies”.

Mr Vekselberg and his Renova Group conglomerate saw $1.5bn and $2bn in assets frozen last month by the US Congress in response to alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election, the Reuter press agency reported.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is currently investigating Russian meddling in the US presidential election and potential links with Mr Trump’s campaign, recently made a “referral” to prosecutors about Mr Cohen.

Giuliani: Trump repaid attorney Stormy Daniels hush money

FBI agents subsequently raided his office seizing a number of documents. Barbara Jones, a so-called special master will review documents to determine if they include confidential communications with his legal clients.

Mr Mueller’s probe has led investigators to scrutinise Mr Vekselberg, according to CNN, which reported that members of the special counsel’s team had questioned the Russian oligarch about payments his company made to Mr Cohen.

Mr Avenatti suggested in a tweet that the alleged money from Mr Vekselberg “may have reimbursed the $130k payment” to his client.

The president and aides meanwhile have denied that an affair occurred, and Mr Trump has consistently dismissed Mr Mueller’s probe as meritless and politically compromised.

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