Russia investigation special counsel Robert Mueller, who is charged with digging into evidence that Donald Trump and his presidential campaign colluded with the Russian government to tamper with the 2016 election, has uncovered a mysterious payment of $120,000 received by then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — a central figure in the ongoing collusion probe — just 10 days after the November 6 election in which Trump won a shocking and unexpected victory, according to a new report by the site Buzzfeed, published on Wednesday morning.
The payment came from the Russian embassy and was identified as “payroll,” but it was flagged as suspicious by bankers at Citibank — which holds the Russian embassy account — because it didn’t fit the normal pattern of embassy payroll transactions, Buzzfeed reported. But the six-figure payout to Kislyak was just one in a series of unexplained, suspicious payments flowing out of the Russian embassy bank account at least since 2013.
Just five days after Trump’s January 20 inauguration, an unidentified person attempted to pull $150,000 out of the Russian embassy account, but the transaction was so out of the ordinary that Citibank officials stopped the withdrawal from happening, according to the report.
Read the full Buzzfeed scoop on the strange Russian cash payments uncovered by Mueller and other investigators by accessing this link.
Kislyak, who resigned as Russian ambassador to the United States last July and now serves as a senator in Russia’s national legislature, has been a central figure in the investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia, whose government was reportedly behind a computer hacking and online propaganda campaign to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.
Often suspected of being a top recruiter of Russian spies in Washington, D.C., Kislyak held a series of secret meetings with Trump campaign officials during the 2016 campaign, as well as during the transition period between the election and Trump’s January 20 inauguration.
Kislyak met behind the scenes with Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his meetings with the Russian ambassador. Kislyak also met repeatedly with then-Senator Jeff Sessions, a top Trump campaign official who is now U.S. attorney general. Sessions initially lied to conceal those meetings in his Senate confirmation hearing, also concealing that fact that he discussed Trump campaign matters with Kislyak for reasons that have not been fully explained.
Trump’s own son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner also met with Kislyak in December of 2016 to create a secret channel of communication directly between Trump and the Russian government that would be secure from U.S. intelligence surveillance. Why such a channel was considered necessary by Kushner has also never been fully explained.
Trump himself met with Kislyak, along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in the Oval Office on May 10, 2017 — one day after he fired FBI Director James Comey over “this Russia thing,” as Trump told an NBC News interviewer. The meeting was notable because United States reporters and photographers were barred, but a Russian government photographer was allowed in. A picture taken by that Russian photographer can be seen at the top of this page.
But Trump may have met with Kislyak much earlier as well, when Kislyak, for reasons that have never been explained, attended Trump’s first foreign policy campaign speech at the Mayflower Hotel in New York City on April 27, 2016. But whether Trump spent face-to-face time with Kislyak at that event has not been confirmed.
The Buzzfeed report also revealed unexplained cash flowing out of the Russian embassy going back to 2013, when the embassy shelled out more than $2.4 million to a single, small home-improvement company owned by a Russian immigrant, for reasons that are unclear.