What Might AT&T, Novartis and a Russian Oligarch Have in Common? Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen’s Bank Account
Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen had a broad range of corporate clients. Now, porn star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer has released a report saying that fees from some of these clients helped cover the $130,000 in hush money paid to Daniels to not speak publicly about an affair she claims to have had with Trump.
Michael Avenatti, Daniels’ lawyer, released the report Tuesday, detailing $4.43 million in transactions paid to Cohen, many of which Avenatti identifies as suspicious.
These are several of the clients that appear in the report:
On Tuesday, AT&T (T) revealed that it had paid Cohen for “insights” into the Trump administration. While Avenatti claimed that the payments totaled $200,000, AT&T did not disclose the total sum. In a prepared statement, the telecoms giant told CNBC that Cohen’s company “was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” but noted that “they did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”
The payments are particularly noteworthy because they were paid into Essential Consultants, a company created by Cohen in late 2016 and later used to pay Daniels.
Avenatti further claims that between late last year and early this year, Novartis also made several payments to Essential Consultants. The four separate payments reportedly total close to $400,000.
For its part, a Novartis spokesman said that “any agreements with Essential Consultants were entered before our current CEO Taking office in February this year and have expired.”
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd.
Another company, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., reportedly paid Essential Consultants a one-time fee of $150,000 in November 2017. According to Bloomberg, the aircraft manufacturer hired Cohen’s firm for “advice on local accounting standards,” as it seeks to sell planes in the U.S.
A spokesman confirmed the payment to Bloomberg, noting that the contract was legal in nature.
Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg
Finally, Avenatti’s report suggests that payments were made to Essential Consultants from Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch whose company has been sanctioned by the U.S. due to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and the country’s actions in Crimea.
Vekselberg’s company, Renova Group, reportedly filtered the money through the group’s American subsidiary, Columbus Nova. While Columbus Nova admitted to hiring Cohen for advice on various ventures, both a spokesman for Vekselberg and Columbus Nova have denied the ties between the two.
Columbus Nova noted that it is “solely owned and controlled by the Americans,” while Vekselberg has reportedly never had “any contractual relationship with Cohen” nor does he “own or manage Columbus Nova,” according to a report from Bloomberg.
The various payments made to Essential Consultants may not be illegal, though Avenatti has claimed that Cohen’s use of Essential Consultants may have violated banking laws. This will likely be determined as part of the ongoing investigation into Cohen for possible bank fraud and election-law violations.