Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Firm with Kremlin Ties Made Payments to Cohen Firm that Paid Stormy Daniels

While Donald Trump was seemingly hoping that his announcement to blow up the Iran nuclear deal would keep the mainstream news media completely preoccupied so that other breaking news reflecting badly on Trump and/or stories that make the Trump/Michael Cohen operations look even more suspicious and sinister.   Among the stories Trump did not want noticed are (i) Penthouse Magazine's interview with Stormy Daniels - a must read - and (ii) suspicious Russian payments to Michel Cohen's shell entity which ultimately paid hush money to Stormy Daniels.  Risking new wars in the Middle East seemingly is less concern to Trump than covering his large, nasty ass. Here are highlights from a piece in the New York Times that looks at the attention getting payments by a Russian oligarch to Cohen's shell entity:
A shell company that Michael D. Cohen used to pay hush money to a pornographic film actress received payments totaling more than $1 million from an American company linked to a Russian oligarch and several corporations with business before the Trump administration, according to documents and interviews.
Financial records reviewed by The New York Times show that Mr. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer and longtime fixer, used the shell company, Essential Consultants L.L.C., for an array of business activities that went far beyond what was publicly known. Transactions totaling at least $4.4 million flowed through Essential Consultants starting shortly before Mr. Trump was elected president and continuing to this January, the records show.
Among the previously unreported transactions were payments last year totaling about $500,000 from Columbus Nova, an investment firm in New York whose biggest client is a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch.
Other transactions described in the financial records range from hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments by Fortune 500 firms with business before the Trump administration, to small amounts related to unexplained activities in foreign countries.
References to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.
The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of emails and interviews shed additional light on Mr. Cohen’s dealings with the company connected to Mr. Vekselberg, who was stopped and questioned at an airport earlier this year by investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating Mr. Cohen for possible bank fraud and election-law violations, among other matters, according to people briefed on the investigation. Stephen Ryan, a lawyer representing Mr. Cohen, declined to comment.
Mr. Cohen also used the same company to collect $250,000 after arranging payments in 2017 and 2018 by a major Republican donor, Elliott Broidy, to a former Playboy model he allegedly impregnated, according to news reports last month.
Among the other payments to Mr. Cohen’s company described in the financial records were four for $99,980 each between October 2017 and January 2018 by Novartis Investments SARL, a subsidiary of Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical giant based in Switzerland.
AT&T made four payments totaling $200,000 between October 2017 and January 2018, according to the documents. AT&T, whose proposed merger with Time Warner is pending before the Justice Department, issued a statement on Tuesday evening confirming that it made payments to Mr. Cohen’s firm. 
“Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration,” the statement said. “They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017.”
So far, no proof of criminal activities, but many of the payments would seem inexplicable other than providing a slush fund to Cohen/Trump.

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