Shortly before the inauguration, Donald Trump’s self-described “fixer” Michael Cohen met at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-tied oligarch and discussed Russian-U.S. relations, the New York Times reported.
Russian businessman Viktor Vekselberg could be seen on video entering Trump Tower on January 9, 2017, in what would be the first of three meetings, the New York Times reported Friday.
Vekselberg, the chairman of Renova Group, has been sanctioned by the Trump administration and was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators at a New York-area airport earlier this year, the New York Times previously reported.
Vekselberg’s American cousin Andrew Intrater attended the Trump Tower meeting and told the New York Times that Vekselberg’s appearance wasn’t initially planned. Intrater’s company Columbus Nova signed a $1 million consulting contract with Cohen later in January. About half of the contract was ultimately paid out to Cohen, the Washington Post reported, before it was terminated when Cohen had trouble finding investors for the company.
Columbus Nova has denied that it was used by Vekselberg — its biggest client — as a middleman to pay Cohen. It was caught scrubbing mentions of its ties to Renova Group from its website.
Federal investigators have shown interest in the Cohen contract, the New York Times reported.
“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 told the New York Times.
Intrater said the men agreed to meet again at Trump’s inauguration, an encounter that was previously reported by the Post. It’s not clear from the Times’ report when and where the third meeting occurred.