Senators Question Russian-Oligarch-Linked Firm That Hired Michael Cohen

Democrats want to know why Columbus Nova hired Donald Trump’s longtime fixer.

Michael Cohen leaves court in Manhattan on April 16, 2018.Go Nakamura/ZUMA

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Four Democratic senators want a New York financial firm linked to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg to explain its hiring last year of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and emerging legal adversary.

Cohen has publicly advertised his willingness to cooperate with federal prosecutors investigating him for possible campaign finance violations and financial crimes. On Thursday, CNN reported that Cohen is prepared to tell special counsel Robert Mueller that Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower at which Trump campaign officials expected to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton from a Russian emissary. That’s one of several areas in which Cohen’s claims could show that Trump lied in public statements, a fact that might spell legal trouble for the president.

A letter sent Thursday by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows that Cohen’s legal plight is also drawing continued scrutiny of the companies that hired him hoping to capitalize on his access to Trump. The firms paid Cohen through a limited liability company he set up in Delaware. Cohen used the same LLC to pay hush money to women including Stormy Daniels, a pornographic actress who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006, the year after he married First Lady Melania Trump.

The lawmakers sent 29 questions to Andrew Intrater, the CEO of Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment firm. Intrater is Vekselberg’s distant cousin. Vekselberg’s conglomerate, the Renova Group, has also been Columbus Nova’s primary client. The Treasury Department sanctioned Vekselberg and Renova in April, barring them from financial transactions in the United States. Intrater, who had little prior history of political contributions, donated $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee and $35,000 to a Trump reelection fund in 2017. Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration with Intrater and discussed US-Russia relations during a meeting with Cohen in Trump Tower. Both Vekselberg and Intrater have reportedly been questioned by Mueller’s office.

Columbus Nova last year paid Cohen $500,000. Two people people speaking for the firm told Mother Jones in May that Intrater hired Cohen in the hope that he could connect the the firm with wealthy investors. In their letter, the senators alleged that Cohen tried—unsuccessfully—to convince another client, the drug company Novartis, to invest in a pharmaceutical firm tied to Columbus Nova.

The senators want to know whether the payments Columbus Nova made to Cohen were connected to Vekselberg and Russian-influence efforts. Their letter notes that “Columbus Nova began paying Mr. Cohen in January 2017 and that shortly thereafter, he worked with Ukrainian politician Andrii Artemenko to hand deliver a proposal ‘outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia’ to the office of then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.” The senators cite reporting that indicates Vekselberg hoped to fund Artemenko’s plan through Columbus Nova. They ask Intrater to explain “what relationship, if any,” he or Columbus Nova has with Artemenko.

A spokesman for Columbus Nova said Friday that Intrater and Columbus Nova had no ties to Artemenko. He said the firm is reviewing the letter.

Read the Democrats’ letter here:

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate