By Steve Neavling
An American company with connections to a Russian oligarch made a $500,000 payment to a shell company that President Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, used to pay hush money to a porn film star.
The New York Times reports  that the shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, had transactions of at least $4.4 million. The company was launched shortly before Trump was elected president in November 2016 and continued to operate until at least this January, according to records.
CNN and other news outlets reported that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the $500,000 payment from Columbus Nova, a New York-based investment firm whose biggest client is Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.
A lawyer for the company told the New York times that the payment was unrelated to Vekselberg and was part of a consulting fee.
Fortune 500 companies that had business before the president also made payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to Essential Consultants.
The Times reported:
References to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the adult film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about an alleged affair with Mr. Trump. The lawyer’s seven-page document, titled “Preliminary Report of Findings,” does not explain the source of his information but describes in detail dates, dollar amounts and parties involved in various dealings by Mr. Cohen and his company. Most of the transactions involved two banks: First Republic Bank and City National Bank.
The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of documents and interviews shed additional light on Mr. Cohen’s dealings with the company connected to Mr. Vekselberg, who was stopped and questioned at an airport earlier this year by investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Taken together, The Times’s findings and Mr. Avenatti’s report offer the most detailed picture yet on Mr. Cohen’s business dealings and financial entanglements in the run-up to the election and its aftermath. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating Mr. Cohen for possible bank fraud and election-law violations, among other matters, according to people briefed on the investigation. Stephen Ryan, a lawyer representing Mr. Cohen, declined to comment.