Michael Cohen met with a Kremlin-connected Russian billionaire in Manhattan 11 days before President Trump’s inauguration to discuss their mutual interest in improving U.S.-Russia relations, according to a report.
Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal fixer and attorney, facilitated the Jan. 9, 2017 meeting in his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower to talk foreign policy with Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch whose closeness to the Kremlin landed him on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list earlier this year, Vekselberg’s cousin told the New York Times.
The cousin, Andrew Intrater, attended the Trump Tower sit-down and described it as brief and casual. He also said Cohen and Vekselberg made plans to meet again at Trump’s inauguration.
Intrater’s private investment firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Cohen a $1 million consulting contract shortly after Trump’s inauguration, which is under scrutiny from federal investigators probing Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Vekselberg is Intrater’s biggest client and invests in business ventures on his behalf.
Intrater told The Times Vekselberg played no role in hiring Cohen as a consultant. In hindsight, Intrater said he wishes he would have never contracted Cohen because of the legal trouble the Trump attorney has found himself in.
“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 said.
Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for bank and wire fraud. He’s also facing scrutiny over potential campaign finance violations as it relates to a hush payment he issued to porn star Stormy Daniels after she threatened to go public with claims she had sex with Trump in 2006.
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, has also shown interest in Cohen’s business dealings.
It’s unclear if Trump was aware of Cohen’s meeting with Vekselberg. A White House spokesman did not return a request for comment. Cohen’s attorney did not respond to emailed questions.
The meeting adds yet another tangent to Trump’s various connections to Russia.