President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen met with a Russian oligarch —who recently was placed under sanctions by the U.S. government — at Trump Tower just days before the inauguration, The New York Times reported Friday.
The January 9, 2017 meeting between Viktor Vekeslberg and Mr. Cohen reportedly focused on improving U.S-Russia relations under the Trump administration.
Mr. Vekeslberg is the chairman of Renova Group, a Russian financial company. Both Mr. Vekeslberg and Renova Group were added to the list of the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctioned individuals and entities last month. The sanctions, which prohibit Mr. Vekeslberg from traveling to the U.S., are for a host of activities including election interference.
Earlier this year, FBI agents working with special counsel Robert Mueller questioned Mr. Vekselberg about payments he made to Mr. Cohen.
The New York Times story is largely based on an interview with Andrew Intrater, the CEO of U.S. investment firm Columbus Nova and Mr. Vekselberg’s cousin. Mr. Intrater was present at the meeting and video footage confirmed Mr. Vekselberg was at Trump Tower that day, according to the article.
Shortly after the pre-inauguration meeting, Mr. Intrater hired Mr. Cohen on a $1 million consulting contract, the Times reported. Mr. Intrater hoped Mr. Cohen could connect wealthy Republican donors to Columbus Nova, the article said.
Mr. Intrater told the Times that he now regrets hiring Mr. Cohen because of the controversies surrounding him. The contract was canceled after months, the Times reported.
“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 told the Times.
Last month, Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel were raided by the FBI. Law enforcement officials seized evidence related to a $130,000 payment Mr. Cohen made to adult film actress Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, who has alleged she had an affair with President Trump in 2006.
Mr. Trump has denied the allegation.
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