Legislation & Lobbying

Company that paid Stormy Daniels reportedly received money from firm tied to sanctioned oligarch

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The U.S. affiliate of an investment firm with ties to a sanctioned Russian oligarch has acknowledged it hired President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as a consultant, and the firm's payments were reportedly made to a company that paid hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.

A document released on Twitter by Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, alleges that Essential Consultants received $500,000 from the investment firm Columbus Nova between January 2017 and August 2017, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Essential Consultants paid Daniels $130,000 in October 2016.

The document claims to show a total of more than $1 million in wire transfers made to Essential Consultants by Columbus Nova and companies that had business before the Trump administration. Transactions totaling $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants, beginning shortly before Trump was elected, according to the Times, which says its independent review confirms much of the information in Avenatti’s document.

The biggest client of Columbus Nova is a company controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who was questioned at an airport this year by investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller. Vekselberg, who attended Trump’s inauguration, was sanctioned by the U.S. government in April. Columbus Nova is run by Vekselberg’s cousin, Andrew Intrater, a U.S. citizen who donated $250,000 to the inauguration and attended it with Vekselberg.

Other companies that reportedly made payments to Essential Consultants were:

• Novartis Investments S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of the Novartis pharmaceutical company that often seeks regulatory approval for its drugs. The company made four payments totaling nearly $400,000 between November and January, according to Avenatti’s document. Novartis has said its agreement with Essential Consultants has expired.

• AT&T, whose proposed merger with Time Warner is being opposed in a suit filed in November by the U.S. Justice Department. The company made four payments totaling $200,000 from October to January, according to Avenatti’s document. AT&T released a statement saying it hired Essential Consulting in early 2017 “to provide insights into understanding the new administration.” The contract has ended.

• Korea Aerospace Industries, which has joined with Lockheed Martin to compete for a contract to provide trainer jets to the U.S .Air Force. Korea Aerospace reportedly paid $150,000 in November.

Richard Owens, a Latham & Watkins lawyer who represents Columbus Nova, said Vekselberg did not provide any funding for and was not involved in the hiring of Cohen.

FBI agents raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room on April 9. Records of payments to Daniels were reportedly among the documents sought.

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