The mysterious Russian-American lobbyist who attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. last year at Trump Tower recently testified before a federal grand jury, according to a new report.
Rinat Akhmetshin gave evidence to the grand jury during testimony on Aug. 11, the Financial Times reported.
Akhmetshin, a Washington, D.C. based political operative and former Soviet military officer, reportedly discussed his involvement in the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, which he attended with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer believed to have connections to the Russian government.
The meeting, which Trump Jr. accepted after being offered derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, has reportedly become a focus of the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller, a former FBI director, has issued subpoenas through the federal grand jury as part of a probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump’s critics say that the Trump Tower meeting is evidence that collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government occurred, though Trump Jr. and the White House deny the allegation. Another possibility raised by analysts and pundits watching the investigation is that the Russians in the Trump Tower meeting were attempting to covertly infiltrate or compromise the Trump campaign.
Both Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya have connections to high-ranking Russian government officials. Veselnitskaya is linked to Yury Chaika, Russia’s equivalent to attorney general. Akhmetshin has worked on behalf of Kremlin-linked businessmen on several projects and has reportedly served as a liaison to Russian government officials during tours in Washington, D.C.
At the time of the meeting, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya were working on a campaign to roll back the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that places sanctions on Russian human rights abusers. The Russian government is highly critical of the law, so much so that Russian President Vladimir Putin retaliated by banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Trump Jr., the White House, and Veselnitskaya have all claimed that the Magnitsky Act — and not Hillary Clinton — was the subject of the Trump Tower meeting, which was also attended by Jared Kushner and embattled former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. However, Akhmetshin said in an interview last month that Veselnitskaya left a binder of documents of a political nature behind after the meeting.
Whether or not information about Clinton was provided at the meeting, Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after being explicitly offered damning information about the former secretary of state. A Trump family acquaintance who pitched the idea also indicated that the Clinton dirt was being provided by the Russian government because of its support for Trump.
In a June 3, 2016, email, Rob Goldstone, the Trump family acquaintance, offered to provide Trump Jr. with the Hillary Clinton dirt through a “Russian government attorney.”
Trump Jr. jumped at the offer, telling Goldstone “If it is what you say I love it.”
Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya have another bizarre connection to the Trump-Russia matter.
During the course of their work on the anti-Magnitsky Act effort, the duo collaborated with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm the commissioned the infamous and uncorroborated dossier of research about Trump’s ties to Russia.
While it was involved in the dossier project, Fusion GPS was working on behalf of a Russian businessman represented by Veselnitskaya to investigate Bill Browder, a London-based financier who lobbied heavily on behalf of the Magnitsky Act.
It has been reported that the documents that Veselnitskaya gave to the Trump campaign regarded campaign contributions that Browder associates gave to Democratic political campaigns.
The overlap in the timeline of Fusion GPS’ work on the dossier and its involvement in the Magnitsky Act lobbying campaign has generated speculation that the opposition research firm was working with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin on Trump-related matters.
When the Trump Tower meeting was first revealed by The New York Times last month, Trump’s legal team suggested that Fusion GPS and Veselnitskaya somehow set up the Trump campaign.
Akhmetshin’s involvement in the meeting raises the question of whether the lobbyist had any interactions about Trump with Fusion GPS, which was founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson.
A journalist who knows both Akhmetshin and Simpson has told The Daily Caller that the two run in the same opposition research circles. New York Times reporter Ken Vogel has also said on Twitter that Akhmetshin and Simpson have collaborated together in the past and shared sources for news stories and research projects.