President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE’s personal lawyer discussed U.S.-Russia relations with a Russian oligarch 11 days before Trump’s inauguration, The New York Times reported Friday.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s “fixer,” met with Viktor Vekselberg, a billionaire businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Trump Tower. The two men reportedly discussed strengthening U.S.-Russia relations under the soon-to-be President Trump.
Andrew Intrater, the CEO of American investment firm Columbus Nova, who is Vekselberg’s cousin and was present at the meeting, told The New York Times about what happened at the meeting. The Times confirmed that Vekselberg had been to Trump Tower that day with video footage.
The report also reveals more details about payments to Cohen from American companies. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels in her defamation lawsuit against Cohen, alleged that Vekselberg’s company paid Cohen about $500,000 after the inauguration.
Soon after Cohen's pre-inauguration meeting with Vekselberg, Intrater hired Cohen on a $1 million consulting contract, according to the Times. Intrater hired Cohen with the hopes that he could help connect wealthy GOP donors to Columbus Nova, but ended the contract after seven months.
Columbus Nova is the U.S. affiliate of Vekselberg’s company. It has denied serving as a channel for Vekselberg to make payments to Cohen. Intrater told the Times that Vekselberg had no role in the decision to hire Cohen.
Intrater told the Times that he now regrets hiring Cohen amid the other controversies surrounding him.
“Obviously, if I’d known in January 2017 that I was about to hire this high-profile guy who’d wind up in this big mess, I wouldn’t have introduced him to my biggest client, and wouldn’t have hired him at all,” Intrater said.
Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, who is investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, reportedly questioned Vekselberg about the payments to Cohen and other donations from Intrater to the Trump campaign and inauguration.