Mueller team interviewed Putin-tied oligarch about payments to Cohen: report

Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has interviewed a Russian oligarch tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the payments his company made to President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen in the months after the 2016 election, CNN reported Tuesday.

Mueller's team reportedly questioned Viktor Vekselberg about the hundreds of thousand of dollars paid from his company's U.S. affiliate, Columbus Nova, to Cohen. Mueller is currently investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The team also asked Vekselberg about donations the head of the American affiliate made to Trump's campaign and inaugural funds, according to CNN.

Columbus Nova's attorney Richard Owens pushed back against the report in a statement to The Hill, saying that reports that Vekselberg used the company to make payments to Cohen "are false."


Owens said the company hired Cohen after the inauguration "as a business consultant regarding potential sources of capital and potential investments in real estate and other ventures."


"The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova's engagement of Michael Coehn is patently untrue. Neither Viktor Vekselberg nor anyone else other than Columbus Nova's owners, were involved in the decision to hire Cohen or provided funding for his engagement," the statement read.

Vekselberg's cousin who leads the U.S. affiliate, Andrew Intrater, did not return CNN's requests for comment. Vekselberg's lawyer and representatives for his Russian firm also did not return requests for comment.

Cohen also did not return CNN's request for comment.

Intrater, an American, made $300,000 in political donations to Trump's campaign, inauguration fund and the Republican National Committee, the network reported.

The report emerges shortly after Stormy Daniels's lawyer Michael Avenatti alleged that Cohen had received $500,000 from Vekselberg's company in the months after the 2016 election.

Avenatti suggested that the payments may be related to the reimbursement Cohen received for a $130,000 payment he made to Daniels to stay quiet about an alleged affair with Trump

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani revealed last week that Trump had reimbursed Cohen for the payment. Cohen had previously stated that the payment was made with his own money, and Trump had denied any knowledge of the payment.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, is currently suing Trump to void the nondisclosure agreement about their alleged affair. She is also suing both Trump and Cohen for defamation.

Updated: 7:20 p.m.