Mueller is investigating a $150,000 payment a pro-Russian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation during the campaign

 

  • The special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly probing a $150,000 donation a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015.
  • The oligarch, Victor Pinchuk, made the donation after then-candidate Donald Trump gave a 20-minute speech at a European conference that promoted closer ties between Ukraine and the West.
  • The donation was reportedly solicited by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, whose offices were raided by the FBI as part of a separate investigation on Monday.

The special counsel Robert Mueller is looking into a large donation a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch made to the Trump Foundation in September 2015 after then-candidate Donald Trump gave a video talk at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine, The New York Times reported.

At the time, Trump was one of several Republicans vying for the 2016 presidential nomination. In August 2015, Doug Schoen, a political consultant who works for the Ukrainian billionaire and steel magnate Victor Pinchuk, personally contacted Trump to set up the speech, according to the report.

Trump accepted the request but reportedly did not broach the subject of any payment. However, his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is said to have called Schoen the next day to ask for a $150,000 fee from Pinchuk in exchange for the talk.

The revelation comes as Mueller investigates the flow of foreign money into the Trump campaign and Trump's personal business. The special counsel is also examining whether administration officials used their influence within the White House to benefit their personal finances.

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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Hope Hicks: Former White House Director of Strategic Communications
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Gary Cohn: Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
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Omarosa Manigault: Former Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
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Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
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Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
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On Monday, investigators working for the US attorney's office at the Southern District of New York raided Cohen's offices in New York after obtaining a search warrant, and seized records on various topics, such as the $130,000 nondisclosure payment Cohen made the adult-film actress, Stormy Daniels, shortly before the 2016 US presidential election. Investigators also seized a computer, phone, personal financial records, and attorney-client communications.

Cohen is currently a subject of scrutiny in two criminal investigations, one of which is being overseen by the SDNY and the other by Mueller's office.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Cohen is under investigation for possible bank fraud and campaign finance violations. Meanwhile, the special counsel's heightened focus on Cohen comes after he subpoenaed the Trump Organization for documents and records related to its foreign deals. According to The Times, the Trump Organization responded by handing over documents about Pinchuk's donation, among others.

RELATED: Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen:

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Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen
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Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives to appear before Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen drives after leaving his hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives at Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, talks to reporters as he departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for National Security Advisor, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and former Texas Governor Rick Perry talk with each other in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 12, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration.

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan to speak with reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, White House national security adviser-designate, from left, Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, and Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, speak in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he had the 'highest confidence' in the intelligence community, in sharp contrast to President-elect Donald Trump's attack on the CIA after reports it found that the Russian government tried to help him win the presidency.

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Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, looks on as his attorney (not pictured) delivers a statement to reporters after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Attorney Michael Cohen arrives to Trump Tower for meetings with President-elect Donald Trump on December 16, 2016 in New York.

(BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 19: Michael Cohen, center, a personal attorney for President Trump, leaves Hart Building after his meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian interference in the 2016 election was postponed on September 19, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits a hotel in New York City, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured leaving a restaurant in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, arrives with his attorney, Stephen M. Ryan, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen is pictured arriving at his hotel in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Levy
Michael Cohen, personal attorney for U.S. President Donald Trump, departs after meeting with Senate Intelligence Committee staff as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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As part of his investigation into the Trump Organization's foreign deals, Mueller is said to be particularly interested in the company's push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow in 2015, just months after Trump gave the talk in Kiev. Cohen and the Russian-born businessman Felix Sater were instrumental in pushing for the deal.

Though the project ultimately fell through, it attracted renewed scrutiny last month when Sater confirmed on national television that the Trump Organization was actively negotiating with a sanctioned Russian bank to secure financing for the building at the height of the election.

Meanwhile, the Times' report about Pinchuk's donation to the Trump Foundation comes after Mueller questioned at least three wealthy Russian oligarchs over 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 asked for information about Pinchuk as part of that line of inquiry.

Pinchuk's donation was the largest the Trump Foundation received in 2015 from anyone other than Trump himself, the report said. Experts also pointed out that the large amount of the donation was disproportionate to the relatively short 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 former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton.

Trump has frequently criticized the Clintons for using their charitable organization, the Clinton Foundation, for personal financial gain and to peddle political influence. Pinchuk has donated more than $13 million to the Clinton Foundation, per The Times.

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which sponsored the conference, said in a statement to The Times that the $150,000 donation to Trump's foundation was "a specific request of Mr. Trump Foundation in September of 2015 when there were multiple candidates for the Republican nomination for president and it was by no means assured that Mr. Trump would be the Republican nominee in 2016."

The Trump Foundation has drawn significant scrutiny for appearing to use donations for Trump's and his family members' personal benefit. The foundation also reportedly said in a tax filing made two weeks after Trump won the 2016 election that it may have broken federal rules that prohibit charitable organizations from self-dealing. 

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