- The special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating a $US150,000 donation a Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015, The New York Times reported.
- The oligarch, Victor Pinchuk, made the donation after Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate at the time, gave a 20-minute speech at a conference in Kiev promoting closer ties between Ukraine and the West.
- Pinchuk has previously advocated compromising with Russia to resolve the country’s conflict with Ukraine.
- According to The Times, the donation was solicited by Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose offices were raided by the FBI on Monday as part of a separate investigation.
The special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a large donation a Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015 after Donald Trump gave a video talk at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, The New York Times reported Monday.
At the time, Trump was one of several Republicans vying to be the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
In August 2015, Doug Schoen, a political consultant who works for the Ukrainian billionaire and steel magnate Victor Pinchuk, contacted Trump to set up the speech, according to the report.
Trump accepted the request but did not broach the subject of any payment, the report said. But Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is said to have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $US150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk.
The report comes as Mueller investigates the flow of foreign money into Trump’s campaign and his business, as well as whether administration officials have used their influence within the White House to benefit themselves financially.
On Monday, investigators working for the US attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York raided Cohen’s offices in New York and seized records on various topics, such as the $US130,000 Cohen paid the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election to keep her quiet about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. Investigators are also said to have taken a computer, a phone, personal financial records, and attorney-client communications.
Cohen is a subject of scrutiny in two criminal investigations; one is overseen by the Southern District, and the other by Mueller’s office.
The Washington Post reported Monday that investigators were looking into whether Cohen committed bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
Mueller recently subpoenaed the Trump Organisation for documents and records related to its foreign deals. According to The Times, the Trump Organisation handed over some, including about Pinchuk’s donation.
As part of his investigation into the Trump Organisation’s foreign deals, Mueller is said to be particularly interested in the company’s push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, months after Trump gave the talk in Kiev. Cohen and Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman, were instrumental in pushing for the deal.
Though the project ultimately fell through, it attracted scrutiny last month when Sater confirmed on national television that the Trump Organisation was at the height of the campaign actively negotiating with a sanctioned Russian bank to secure financing for the building.
Mueller has questioned at least three wealthy Russian oligarchs about whether they directly or indirectly funneled money into the Trump campaign. Investigators have also been asking witnesses about money flowing in from the United Arab Emirates and have asked for information about Pinchuk as part of that inquiry.
Pinchuk’s donation was the largest the Trump Foundation received in 2015 from anyone other than Trump, the Times report said. Experts who spoke to the newspaper said the amount seemed disproportionate to the length of Trump’s talk, which lasted 20 minutes.
Trump gave the talk via a video link at the Yalta European Strategy conference, which promotes closer ties between Ukraine and the West. Previous attendees include Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, and former US President Bill Clinton.
Pinchuk has previously advocated compromising with Russia to resolve the country’s conflict with Ukraine.
Trump has frequently accused the Clintons of using their charitable organisation, the Clinton Foundation, for personal financial gain and to peddle political influence. According to The Times, Pinchuk has donated more than $US13 million to the foundation.
Meanwhile, the Trump Foundation has drawn significant scrutiny for appearing to use donations to benefit Trump and his family members. The foundation also said in a tax filing made two weeks after Trump won the 2016 election that it may have broken federal rules that prohibit charitable organisations from self-dealing, The Times reported.
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