The attorney for adult-film performer Stormy Daniels made an explosive claim on Tuesday, merging the two biggest scandals of Donald Trump’s presidency in a single tweet—and setting off a frenzy of fresh speculation about the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
On Tuesday evening, Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, upped the ante further, publicly alleging that a Russian oligarch “may have” provided the hush money that Trump paid Daniels—via his longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen—to cover up an alleged affair between the president and the adult-film star. (Trump has acknowledged the payment was made, but denies the affair and says the money had nothing to do with his campaign.) In Avenatti’s words: “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. These monies may have reimbursed the $130k payment.”
Cohen’s attorney, Steve Ryan, told me on Tuesday that the transactions did not amount to “a payment.”
“I know you’re using shorthand,” Ryan added, when I asked him whether Cohen was paid by a Ukrainian-born Russian billionaire referenced in an unverified dossier that Avenatti published to Twitter. “But this was not a payment.”