(CNN) – Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments his company’s US affiliate made to President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, after the election, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Viktor Vekselberg, chairman of asset manager Renova Group, is an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, and last month the Trump administration placed him on a list of sanctioned Russians for activities including election interference. The purpose of the payments, which predate the sanctions, and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen is unclear.
The questions asked of Vekselberg suggest that Mueller investigators have been examining some of Cohen’s business relationships as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Vekselberg is one of two Russian oligarchs the FBI stopped earlier this year after their private jets landed in New York-area airports as part of Mueller’s investigation.
Investigators also asked Vekselberg about donations the head of his US affiliate made to Trump’s inaugural fund and campaign funds, sources said.
The attorney for Stormy Daniels — the porn star who received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump a decade ago — produced information Tuesday evening that appears to add further details to CNN’s reporting. Michael Avenatti alleged that Cohen received half a million dollars from a company affiliated with Vekselberg in the months after the presidential election.
Avenatti alleged the $500,000 went into the bank account for Essential Consultants, a shell company that Cohen set up before the election that was used to pay Daniels. Avenatti added that the payments occurred from January to August 2017.
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