In July of 2016, Donald Trump, Jr. met a 42-year-old Russian attorney named Natalia Veselnitskaya who had promised him damaging information about then-candidate Hillary Clinton. One of his father’s contacts, a music publicist named Rob Goldstone, had arranged the meeting as a favor to a client of his, the Azeri real estate developer and pop singer Emin. Goldstone had worked with the Trumps on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. There were other reasons to take the meeting, too: Emin’s father, Aras Agalarov, is the 51st-richest man in Russia and an instrumental figure in the President’s aborted foray into Russian real estate: the Moscow tower he tried—and failed—to erect.
Trump Jr. has said he knew absolutely nothing about Veselnitskaya before their meeting, not even her name. She turned out to use the promise of information that could help his father’s campaign as a pretext to discuss reinstating a popular Russian-American adoption program, according to his version of events. What could be more harmless?
In fact, Veselnitskaya was already a key figure for the defense in one of the most notorious money-laundering scandals in recent memory, encompassing $230 million in public funds allegedly stolen from the Russians by a network of corrupt bureaucrats and routed into real estate sales, including some in Manhattan, through ironclad Swiss bank accounts. And she was accused of lobbying U.S. officials for a Russian NGO that sought to overturn the Russian ban on U.S. adoptions, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Justice Department and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).-TPM
The Hill -The Russian lawyer who penetrated Donald Trump’s inner circle was initially cleared into the United States by the Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she embarked on a lobbying campaign last year that ensnared the president’s eldest son, members of Congress, journalists and State Department officials, according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews.
This revelation means it was the Obama Justice Department that enabled the newest and most intriguing figure in the Russia-Trump investigation to enter the country without a visa.
Later, a series of events between an intermediary for the attorney and the Trump campaign ultimately led to the controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr.
Just five days after meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower with Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Moscow attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya showed up in Washington in the front row of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia policy, video footage of the hearing shows.
Veselnitskaya also attended a dinner with the chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing Russia policy, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and roughly 20 other guests at a dinner club frequented by Republicans.
Rohrabacher said he believed Veselnitskaya and her U.S. colleagues, which included former Rep. Ronald Dellums (D-Calif.), were lobbying other lawmakers to reverse the Magnitsky Act and restore the ability of Americans to adopt Russian children that Moscow had suspended.
Daily Caller – Radical left-wing icon former California Democratic Rep. Ron Dellums was a hired lobbyist for Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. June 9, 2016, the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has learned.
Dellums, who represented liberal San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., is a long-time darling of left-wing political activists. He served 13 terms in Congress as an African-American firebrand and proudly called himself a socialist. He retired in 1996.
The former congressman is one of several high-profile Democratic partisans who was on Veselnitskaya’s payroll, working to defeat a law that is the hated object of a personal vendetta waged by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ronald Dellums endorsed Hillary again in 2016.
“I don’t think this was very heavily lobbied at all compared with the other issues we deal with,” Rohrabacher said.
As for his former congressional colleague Dellums, Rohrabacher said he recalled having a conversation about the Magnitsky Act and the adoption issue: “Ron and I like each other … I have to believe he was a hired lobbyist but I don’t know.”
Here’s how Veselnitskaya is tied to the massive 2013 money laundering scheme and the controversial piece of legislation: 2012’s Magnitsky Act that involved Denis Katsyv, the son of Russian railroad baron Petr Katsyv and owner of the Prevezon group. It was the Magnitsky Act that Veselnitskaya allegedly discussed in her meeting with Donald Trump Jr.:
TPM – In 2013, Veselnitskaya agreed to represent Denis Katsyv, The younger Katsyv was accused of collaborating with corrupt Russian officials in the money-laundering scheme. Then-U.S. attorney and “Sheriff of Wall Street” Preet Bharara (who was appointed US Attorney in Manhattan by Barack Obama and was fired by President Trump in March) led the charge against Prevezon; the company, his office said, had used cash from the theft to buy condos in Bharara’s jurisdiction.
Katsyv had been Veselnitskaya’s highest-profile client by far, and his defense would be a world-historic success not just for the wealthy real estate investor, but for the Russian establishment under President Vladimir Putin.
Until this weekend, the closest Veselnitskaya had come to the public eye was as a footnote to the compounding scandal of the Prevezon affair. Veselnitskaya had come to the United States with Katsyv, who was to be deposed by Bharara’s team. Not only wasn’t she deposed herself, she didn’t attend her client’s deposition in person. But after the deposition, she moved to the Plaza Hotel for the remaining two nights of her stay at a cost of $995 per night. Her firm then billed the U.S. government for the entire stay, as well as a single meal for five that included eight grappas, two bottles of wine, eighteen dishes and a bill that came to nearly $800. The group’s total expenses topped $50,000, and they promised to file more.
The legal proceedings in which Veselnitskaya was enmeshed contain a spy novel’s-worth of twists, turns and tragic, suspicious accidents. Sergei Magnitsky, a whistleblowing accountant who called attention to Russian bureaucrats’ alleged widespread embezzlement, was arrested and detained without trial for nearly a year until his death in 2009 from what prison staff described as “pancreonecrosis, ruptured abdominal membrane and toxic shock,” according to the U.S. government’s suit against Prevezon. The Russian Interior Ministry later revised the cause of death to heart failure. When Magnitsky’s family examined his body, they found bruises and that his fingers had been broken, according to an early draft of a report by then-president Dmitry Medvedev’s own investigative committee.
The incident led to a controversial piece of legislation: 2012’s Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned 18 Russian officials believed by the US to have been involved in Magnitsky’s death. Five days later, the Russian parliament voted to ban adoptions of Russian children by Americans, a move understood to be retaliation for the Magnitsky Act. Putin, by that time president of Russia again, also began to compile an “anti-Magnitsky” list of his own, according to the New York Times. Bharara was among the prominent names on it.
Magnitsky’s death, and the original theft by Russian bureaucrats, are believed by many, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), to be the work of the Klyuev Group, a network of criminals working in the Russian government to enrich themselves at the expense of Russian citizens (its exploits are chronicled in English in a number of articles by reporter Michael Weiss). Magnitsky and others sought to expose what they believed was hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of graft by the group.
The suit against Prevezon never went to trial. On March 11, Donald Trump fired Bharara, and on March 21, Nikolai Gorokhov, the Magnitsky family’s attorney and a key witness for the prosecution, fell from the fourth floor of an apartment building, apparently when a rope broke while he and others were trying to move a bathtub in through the window. He sustained head injuries.