US & Canada

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen 'paid by firm linked to Russian'

Stormy and Cohen Image copyright Getty/Reuters
Image caption Stormy Daniels says she was paid by Mr Cohen to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Mr Trump

A company used by President Donald Trump's personal lawyer to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels also received $500,000 (£368,000) from a firm tied to a Russian oligarch, US media report.

The firm, Columbus Nova, acknowledged the payment but said it was a consultancy fee.

It was one of several businesses - including major corporations - which paid a shell company set up by Michael Cohen after the 2016 election.

Mr Cohen is yet to comment.

Last month the FBI seized papers from Mr Cohen's office following a request from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating suspected Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Mr Cohen's company, Essential Consultants LLC, last year received half a million dollars from Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment company affiliated with a firm controlled by Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, according to the New York Times.

The Associated Press also said it had reviewed financial documents that appeared to support the claims first made by Ms Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti, in a memo posted online that described details of payments but did not provide a source.

A lawyer for Columbus Nova said late on Tuesday that the payment to Essential Consultants was a business consulting fee related to potential investments and had nothing to do with Mr Vekselberg.

"Reports today that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved in or provided any funding for Columbus Nova's engagement of Michael Cohen is patently untrue," Richard Owens said in a statement.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges she had a sexual relationship with Mr Trump in 2006 - a claim the president has denied.

Mr Cohen paid Ms Daniels $130,000 (£92,000) during the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement. The payment was made via Essential Consultants.

The documents reportedly show that Essential Consultants also received a $200,000 payment from AT&T as the corporation sought approval from the Trump administration for its planned acquisition Time Warner.

AT&T confirmed to CNN a payment for an undisclosed amount for "insights into understanding the new administration".

"Essential Consulting was one of several firms we engaged in early 2017 to provide insights into understanding the new administration," the company said on Tuesday.

"They did no legal or lobbying work for us, and the contract ended in December 2017."