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Cohen met Vekselberg in Trump Tower.
Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo
Vekselberg is not seen as one of Putin’s inner circle, but nonetheless has friendly ties with the Kremlin.

Michael Cohen met a Russian oligarch in Trump Tower, then took $1 million from his cousin

By Max de Haldevang

It’s been a rough few months for Viktor Vekselberg. The Russian oligarch, who has long sought to keep away from the public eye, has found his name beamed across the world as part of US law enforcement’s investigations into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

First, Vekselberg was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators and had his electronic devices searched, shortly after stepping off a private plane in New York, according to the New York Times (paywall).

Then, he was sanctioned by the US Treasury, reportedly leading to $1.5 to $2 billion of his firms’ assets being frozen.

Now, the Times and CNN report that Vekselberg and his cousin Andrew Intrater met Trump’s embattled personal lawyer Michael Cohen in Trump Tower, just eleven days before the presidential inauguration in Jan. 2017. They apparently discussed their shared aim of improving US-Russia relations.

A couple of weeks later, Intrater’s private equity firm Columbus Nova—which counts Vekselberg as its biggest client and is seen by some (paywall) as an extension of his Renova Group conglomerate—gave Cohen a $1 million consulting contract.

Cohen has come under the magnifying glass of federal prosecutors for a series of similar arrangements, in which firms like AT&T and Novartis paid Cohen for “insights” into Trump’s world.

Intrater insists that Columbus Nova did nothing wrong, and that Vekselberg had nothing to do with the decision to hire Trump’s personal lawyer.

Here’s an updated list of all known payments to Essential Consultants, Cohen’s shell company.

Money into Michael Cohen’s shell company

From Amount Date
Columbus Nova $500,000 (approx) Jan. 2017 to at least Aug. 2017
Novartis $1.2 million Feb. 2017 to Feb. 2018
AT&T $600,000 2017 to 2018
Korea Aerospace Ltd $150,000 Nov. 27, 2017
Real Estate Attorney’s Group* $62,500 Jan. 2, 2018
Total: $2.1 million