Michael Avenatti Says Trump's Lawyer Michael Cohen May Have Been Repaid By a Russian Oligarch After the Election

News & Politics

Michael Avenatti, the lawyer representing Stephanie Clifford in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, said Tuesday evening that the president's lawyer Michael Cohen may have been reimbursed by a Russian oligarch for hush money payments. Avenatti was not explicit, however, about how he obtained this information.

After Avenatti first made the claims on Twitter, the Daily Beast reported that it had confirmed his findings.

Clifford, a porn star who goes by the name Stormy Daniels, is suing the president and Cohen over a non-disclosure agreement she was paid to sign days before the 2016 election. Cohen has said that he took a home equity loan to make the $130,000 payment. He initially said he was not reimbursed for the expense, but Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani later said that the president had refunded Cohen.

Now, Avenatti claims that he has discovered that Russian Oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has reportedly been interviewed as a part of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, "caused substantial funds to be deposited into the bank account from which Mr. Cohen made the payment."

Avenatti says that the payment directed by Vekselberg came 75 days after the payment to his client, adding, "It appears that these funds may have replenished the account following the payment to Ms. Clifford."

Natasha Bertrand, a reporter for the Atlantic, reached out to Cohen's attorney about the "payment," who reportedly said, “I understand the shorthand you’re using, but it wasn’t a payment," before hanging up.

The New York Times reported on May 4 that Mueller's team interviewed Vekselberg two months ago. It was not clear, however, whether Vekselberg was a target of an investigation or a suspect in a crime.

Cohen also reportedly reached out to people in Moscow during the presidential campaign in an attempt to reach a deal for the president to build a Trump Tower in Russia. 

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