The news that Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen received $500,000 from Russia oligarch Viktor Vekselberg after the 2016 presidential election did not come from the New York Times, NBC News, or any traditional news outlet—though most major publications were able to corroborate that report.
Instead, the source of the day’s bombshell came from Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, who tweeted out an “executive summary” Tuesday afternoon—a fact that reportedly stunned sources.
“After significant investigation, we have discovered that Mr. Trump’s atty Mr. Cohen received approximately $500,000 in the mos. after the election from a company controlled by a Russian Oligarc with close ties to Mr. Putin,” Avenatti tweeted. “These monies may have reimbursed the $130k payment.”
The Executive Summary from our first Preliminary Report on Findings may be accessed via the link below. Mr. Trump… https://t.co/6kqlkX19gD— Michael Avenatti (@Michael Avenatti) 1525813586.0
“How the fuck did Avenatti find out?” one source asked The Daily Beast when pressed on Cohen’s payment from Vekselberg.
In documents released via Twitter, Avenatti also alleged “[Cohen’s company] Essential received $200,000 in four separate payments of $50,000 in late 2017 and early 2018 from AT&T.” Shortly after Avenatti’s tweet, AT&T admitted it retained Cohen for “insight” into the Trump administration.
The New York Times on Tuesday referenced Avenatti’s document release in an article on Vekselberg’s payments to Cohen:
“References to the transactions first appeared in a document posted to Twitter on Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star who was paid $130,000 by Essential Consultants to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump. The lawyer’s six-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.
The Times’s review of financial records confirmed much of what was in Mr. Avenatti’s report. In addition, a review of emails 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.”
Though originally noting Avenatti “provided no documentation for his claims,” NBC News was also able to “review financial documents that appear to support” the attorney.