Daniels' attorney questions Cohen dealings

Susan Heavey

An attorney for Stormy Daniels says he has more evidence of ties between a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the United States and a payment to US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and questioned other companies' dealings with Cohen's firm.

In television interviews, attorney Michael Avenatti also called for the release of bank records detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to Cohen's Essential Consultants LLC made by AT&T, Novartis AG, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd and Columbus Nova LLC, a New York-based investment firm linked to businessman Viktor Vekselberg, who has ties to the Kremlin.

Avenatti's comments followed a statement he made on Tuesday about payments to Cohen's firm in 2017 and 2018, after Trump won the November 2016 presidential election. The companies later confirmed the payments.

New questions being raised about Cohen's role and work for Trump could further pressure Cohen after the FBI raided his home and office last month as part of a criminal investigation of his business dealings and a payment to Daniels. The porn star said she had sex with Trump once in 2006 and kept in touch with him for a while, which Trump has denied.

The White House referred questions to Trump's outside lawyers. Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said the outside legal team had no comment on Avenatti's allegations.

The revelation also drew attention to another potential line of inquiry in US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the election and potential collusion by Trump's campaign. Moscow has denied US intelligence agency conclusions of tampering and Trump denies any coordination with Russian officials and his campaign.

Cohen on Wednesday told reporters Avenatti's report was inaccurate.

It was not immediately clear how Avenatti knew about the payments, and he declined to say how in TV interviews with ABC and MSNBC.

His client Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said Cohen paid her $130,000 a month before the election to stay quiet about the sexual encounter. Daniels has filed two related lawsuits against Trump and Cohen.

The US Treasury Department's inspector general's office said it had opened an investigation into whether confidential banking records involving Cohen may have been leaked.