The FBI has known about Putin pal Viktor Vekselberg for years, and even made the rare move of publicly warning US investors to stay away from his Skolkovo Foundation as it was a Russia front.
The FBI warned four years ago that a foundation controlled by the Russian oligarch who allegedly reimbursed Donald Trump's personal lawyer might have been acting on behalf of Russia's intelligence services.
FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote an unusual column in the Boston Business Journal in April of 2014 to warn that a foundation controlled by Russian energy baron Viktor Vekselberg might be part of a Moscow spying campaign that sought to siphon up American science and technology.
"The foundation may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation's sensitive or classified research, development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial applications," Ziobro wrote. "This analysis is supported by reports coming out of Russia itself."
Fast forward to this week: Vekselberg's name has been in U.S. headlines because of allegations about his involvement with payments to Trump's longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen.
A lawyer suing Trump and Cohen, Michael Avenatti, released a document on Tuesday charging that Vekselberg might have reimbursed Cohen for the payment he made to Avenatti's client, porn actress Stormy Daniels. Avenatti's document has not been fully verified but important aspects of it have been confirmed.
Andrey Shtorkh, a spokesman for Vekselberg, did not respond to a request for comment. The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. subsidiary of the company that Vekselberg controls has acknowledged making payments to Cohen, but it denied that it served as a pass-through for Vekselberg or anyone else outside the United States trying to funnel money to him.
FBI investigators reportedly stopped Vekselberg on his way into the United States earlier this year to question him. The 2014 column written by Ziobro suggests that Vekselberg has been of interest to U.S. intelligence officials for some time — well before the counterintelligence investigation into Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election.
For 12 months now the refrain from Trump supporters and pro-Russia fellow travelers has been "If the Trump campaign took money from Russia, there would be a smoking gun."
This gun here may not be smoking, but it sure as hell seems to have been pretty recently fired as the barrel is very warm and it still smells of gunpowder, guys.
The Cohen case is turning into an even bigger cesspool than Mike Flynn or Paul Manafort, and that's really saying something.
Oh, but of course, Cohen may be directly related the the recent resignation of NY AG Eric Schniederman.
Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was informed about allegations of sexual misconduct by then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman around 2013, according to a letter filed in Manhattan federal court on Friday.
An attorney, Peter Gleason, submitted a letter to the court Friday explaining that two women had come to him a half-decade or more ago with complaints that they were “sexually victimized” by Schneiderman.
Counseling against reporting the allegations to Manhattan’s district attorney based on his past experiences with political corruption cases, Gleason says, he discussed the women’s allegations with a retired New York Post journalist, Stephen Dunleavy.
Dunleavy who offered to discuss the matter with Trump. “Mr. Dunleavy did indeed discuss this very matter with Mr. Trump as evidenced by a phone call I received from attorney Michael Cohen,” Gleason, a lawyer in Mahopac, New York, wrote to the judge. “During my communications with Mr. Cohen I shared with him certain details of Schneiderman’s vile attacks on these two women.”
Schneiderman’s lawyer, Isabelle Kirshner, declined to comment.
Gleason’s letter was the latest salvo in a battle over the records seized by the FBI last month from Cohen’s office and residences and electronic devices. The lawyer requested a protective order to seal all correspondence that Cohen may have had about the women, in part to protect their identities as assault victims.
Trump’s potential knowledge of allegations against Schneiderman haven’t previously been dislosed, although the men have publicly feuded over Trump’s business practices. Schneiderman sought to sue Trump University in state court in 2012, and filed a complaint the next year in federal court, claiming the for-profit school defrauded students.
In a tweet on Sept. 11, 2013, Trump took aim at Schneiderman while also referring to New York politicians who’d resigned over allegations of sexual misconduct, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.
“Weiner is gone, Spitzer is gone -- next will be lightweight A.G. Eric Schneiderman. Is he a crook? Wait and see, worse than Spitzer or Weiner,” Trump tweeted.
He knew, guys. Not that Schneiderman didn't deserve the boot, he's still a sexual predator and monster who abused women, full stop. But Trump knew about at least some of the accusations against him and knew about them four years ago.
A lot of people looked the other way on Schneiderman and enabled him to keep his position and to continue to harm women.
One of those people was Donald Trump.