Donald Trump may still be hiding the White House visitor logs, but it would still be more interesting to get a peek at the schedule for Trump Tower. There was the well-known meeting between Trump’s senior campaign staff and Russian operatives during the campaign, the more recently discovered meeting with representatives for Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and CNN is now reporting that Michael Cohen lined up a Trump Tower meeting with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg less than two weeks before Trump took office.
Vekselberg is the head of Russian investment firm Renova Group, and together with a cousin formed the American company Columbus Nova. That company poured more than $1 million into Essential Consultants, the letter-drop/shell company which appears to have served as an all-purpose corruption hub, making Donald Trump’s porn-star payoffs and accepting contributions from US companies, foreign companies and foreign governments seeking an edge with Trump. Agents working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller stopped Vekselberg at a New York-area airport earlier this year, likely in connection to his payments to Cohen.
But while Columbus Nova has admitted to the payments, the company has made several statements that Vekselberg was not involved … a position that is much more difficult to maintain when, at about the same time these payments began, the Russian oligarch and Trump attorney were together at Trump Tower for a very specific purpose:
A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that Vekselberg and Intrater met with Cohen and discussed improving US-Russia relations.
In another recently discovered instance, Cohen was found to have taken at least $400,000 to arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and the president of Ukraine. Ukraine got their meeting, and not only did Cohen collect the money, Ukraine dropped an investigation into Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.
The Vekselberg meeting appears to be just another example of how Essential Consultants was essentially nothing but plain old-fashioned bribery.
What’s really amazing is not that Cohen had this meeting—there have been plenty of examples of this kind of behavior. What’s amazing is that it was still going on in January 2017, months after Trump and everyone in his campaign knew that the FBI was actively investigating ties between his campaign and Russia.
Perhaps Trump assumed that, once he had his hands on the FBI, he could make everything neatly go away. Perhaps he didn’t care.
There’s still a question of whether any of the millions given to Essential Consultants ended up not just paying Donald Trump’s porn-star tab, but in his bank account. But even if it didn’t, it’s clear that the Trump team was selling access. And doing pretty well at it.