Russian Lawyer Makes New Claim About Trump Tower Meeting
The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016 is making new claims about the controversial conclave.
Natalia Veselnitskaya tells Bloomberg News that Trump Jr. told her that if his father won the election, his administration would revisit the Magnitsky Act, a law that blacklists Russian human rights abusers and is vehemently opposed by the Kremlin.
“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,” Veselnitskaya recalls Trump Jr. saying. “I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it.”
This is the first time that Veselnitskaya has claimed that Trump Jr. offered her help during their June 9, 2016 meeting, which was also attended by Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The New York Times broke news of the meeting in July. Veselnitskaya, who is based in Moscow, has given numerous media interviews since then.
When she attended the meeting, Veselnitskaya, who has connections to top Russian government officials, brought along a translator and a Russian-American lobbyist who worked with her to neuter the Magnitsky Act, which was passed by Congress in 2012.
Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after being told by an acquaintance, Rob Goldstone, that a “Russian government attorney” would be offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the offer was being made as part of the Russian government’s support for his father’s candidacy.
“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. told Goldstone.
After The Times revealed the meeting, Trump Jr. initially claimed that it involved a discussion about Russia’s adoption laws. As retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, Russia barred Americans from adopting Russian children.
Trump Jr. reluctantly disclosed that the meeting involved the Magnitsky Act and that he was offered information on Clinton prior to taking it. The meeting is of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the election.
Mueller’s investigators reportedly interviewed Rinat Akhmetshin, the lobbyist who went with Veselnitskaya to the meeting. Akhmetshin is a notorious Beltway political operative who has been alleged by some to have ties to the Kremlin.
Veselnitskaya told Bloomberg that she has not met with Mueller’s team but that she would be willing to do so. She said she is also willing to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Veselnitskaya took a four-page memo with her into the meeting, which lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.
Most of the document centered on the Magnitsky Act and Bill Browder, a London-based financier who lobbied Congress for the sanctions law. Sergei Magnitsky, the namesake for the Magnitsky Act, was Browder’s Russian attorney. He died in a Russian prison in 2009 under mysterious circumstances. Browder alleges that Magnitsky was murdered because he uncovered a massive money laundering scheme involving Russian crime bosses, including Veselnitskaya’s client, Denis Katsyv.
Veselnitskaya has alleged that Browder is lying about the case in order to cover up for his own financial misdeeds. The document she took into the Trump meeting makes a small link between Browder and Hillary Clinton. It says that an investment fund that Browder worked with called Ziff Brothers made illegal contributions to the Clinton campaign.
Veselnitskaya reportedly shared the document with Yuri Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor general, the equivalent of the U.S. Attorney General. The Daily Caller has been told that she put the document together with the help of a London-based private research firm.
In her interview with Bloomberg, Veselnitskaya claimed that Trump Jr. inquired about the Clinton contributions during their Trump Tower exchange.
“This money the Ziffs got from Russia, do you have any financial documents showing that this money went to Clinton’s campaign?” Veselnitskaya recalled Trump Jr. asking.
Trump Jr. has denied doing anything wrong by accepting an offer of opposition research on Clinton. Trump critics have alleged that the meeting shows that the campaign was willing to collude with Russians.
Further complicating Veselnitskaya’s involvement in the Trump Jr. meeting is her work on the anti-Magnitsky campaign with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm behind the Trump dossier.
Fusion GPS was working alongside Veselnitskaya to investigate Browder. That overlap has raised questions about whether information from the Trump Tower meeting wound up in the Fusion GPS dossier, which was funded by the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee. (RELATED: Oppo Researcher Behind Trump Dossier Is Linked To Pro-Kremlin Lobbying Effort)
Browder has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and has called Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson a “professional smear campaigner.”