National Security

Cohen-linked Russian oligarch has numerous ties to US: AP

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A sanctioned Russian oligarch linked to President Trump’s former longtime attorney Michael Cohen had numerous ties to the United States and was involved in a Washington, D.C., lobbying campaign to further Russian interests in the country, according to an Associated Press report.

The report states that Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, backed a $1.6 million lobbying campaign to help Russian interests in Washington.

It states that Vekselberg worked with an American cousin, Andrew Intrater, who is the head of Columbus Nova, an investment management firm based in New York. 

{mosads}Vekselberg provided $3.2 million in funding for Fort Ross, a former Russian settlement in California’s Sonoma County, which houses the first Russian Orthodox church built on U.S. soil.

Other Vekselberg finances in the U.S. include investments in several Silicon Valley startups, according to the AP, as well as a loan to a Baptist church in Savannah, Ga., and a Western-themed resort near Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I think all along Vekselberg thought a big chunk of his life was going to be anchored here in the United States and he, like other Russia businessmen, has made strategic investments in his philanthropic work to be in better standing here,” former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told the AP.

Columbus Nova hired Cohen as a consultant in January 2017. It paid Cohen’s LLC a total of $500,000 in eight payments that ended in August 2017. Columbus Nova has said that Vekselberg played no role in its payments to Cohen.

Vekselberg was hit by sanctions in April by the Treasury Department in response to interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The Treasury Department’s deadline for companies to end business with Vekselberg under the sanctions was June 4. Columbus Nova is in the process of unwinding its business with Vekselberg, and negotiations with the Trump administration over this are continuing.

Cohen, who ended his business relationship with Trump after years of service to the former businessman, is under investigation for bank fraud and possible campaign finance law violations.

CORRECTION: This story was corrected at 12:12 p .m. An earlier version included incorrect information about payments to Michael Cohen, and the subject of U.S. sanctions. 

Tags Donald Trump Russia sanctions Treasury Department Trump administration

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