The alt-right tie-in could be a lead to nowhere, and it’s best to be skeptical about vague forays down the internet rabbit hole. Perhaps Frederick Intrater is just a savvy domain squatter! Also, what we know about the alleged election-interference campaign indicates that Russia already had perfectly serviceable fronts like the now-notorious Internet Research Agency, so it’s not clear why whoever was behind it would need to lean on Vekselberg’s cousins.


Federal investigators seem very interested, however. Cohen’s office was raided a few months ago in a bank-fraud investigation that in retrospect seems obviously connected to Essential Consulting, and they have also questioned Vekselberg about those payments (and possibly massive Trump campaign donations placed by Andrew Intrater). The line of questioning almost certainly had more to do with the pay-to-play scheme and the legality of the front than alt-right domains. But it’s sure more bad PR for Cohen at a time when he’s probably going to get indicted, and certain angry presidents could easily decide to throw him under the bus.

Update, May 10, 11:10pm: In a statement emailed to Gizmodo, Frederick Intrater explained that he purchased a number of domain names, including a number of alt-right related ones, with an intention of flipping them for a profit. Intrater said he later thought better than to sell them and instead decided to just let them expire.


“In retrospect, it was a dumb idea and I never told my brother or anyone else at Columbus Nova that I had done this,” he said. “To conclude that I support white supremacy or anti-Semitism is unreasonable given what I’ve described above and also taking into consideration that I am a Jew and the son of a Holocaust survivor. I truly regret the unexpected outcome of my actions.”

[NBC News via Washington Post]

Correction: A prior version of this headline (but not the article) stated Columbus Nova was a “Russian firm.” Columbus Nova is registered in the USthough as NBC noted, its ownership is disputed, and until November 2017 it was listed online by Vekselberg’s Russia-based firm, Renova Group, as a subsidiary. We regret the error.