AT&T Inc paid Essential Consultants, a company set up by President Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen, more than the $200,000 (£147,458) that came to light late on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
Richard Delmar, counsel for the inspector general, said Wednesday that an inquiry was opened because of allegations that financial records of a shell company used by Cohen, Essential Consultants, were "improperly disseminated".
Novartis now acknowledges that it paid Cohen's consulting firm a total of $1.2 million (rather than the $400,000 that was reported yesterday by Avenatti), as part of a one-year agreement that the Swiss drug giant entered into in February 2017, just after Trump was sworn in. Cohen's attorneys do not provide further details to clarify Cohen's relationship with Vekselberg, simply calling some of Avenatti's report a "toxic mix of misinformation".
In the history of the US presidency, this may be a first: The lawyer of an adult film star may have uncovered some serious financial misconduct by the president's inner circle.
In U.S. television interviews with ABC and MSNBC, Avenatti declined to say where he had received the information about the payments to Cohen from. The New York Times reviewed financial records that confirmed some of what was in Avenatti's report.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Cohen used the same company to pay Daniels $130,000 days before the 2016 presidential election.
The Swiss company said on Wednesday it had been approached in November a year ago by the U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office who wanted to know about the payments, while probing potential meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Similar payments were made by AT&T and the aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries.
Novartis also said federal investigators working with special counsel Robert Mueller contacted the company in November regarding its connection to Essential Consultants and that it cooperated with the probe.
The company, which is partly owned by the South Korean government's Export-Import bank, confirmed the payment and claimed the money was for "legal consulting concerning accounting standards on production costs".
In an email sent to employees on Wednesday, AT&T said it hired "several consultants to help us understand how the president and his administration might approach a wide range of policy issues important to the company".
The Washington Post reports that Frederick Intrarater, the brother of Columbus Nova CEO Andrew Intrarater, registered the domains in his name as well as the company name.
"I don't believe that Michael Cohen is registered as a lobbyist", Avenatti continued.
Vekselberg was placed under US sanctions in April and has been questioned by Mueller's team investigating Russian meddling in the USA presidential election.
"Mr. Cohen inexplicably accepted these payments while he was the personal attorney to the president", the Avenatti document said.
"We're watching it very closely, we're heavily involved", Jimenez said. It also denied the agreement with Cohen was linked to a dinner Narasimhan had in January with Mr. Trump and other corporate executives at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
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