Today the Southern District of New York announced the Russian lawyer who arranged the infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at the Trump Tower is being charged with obstruction of justice in connection with civil money laundering and forfeiture action.
The lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, was initially working on behalf of Prevezon Holdings, a company owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv. The U.S. has argued that the company “received and laundered a portion of the proceeds of a Russian tax refund scheme involving corrupt Russian officials that was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky,” charges for which the company has since paid a $5 million settlement.
While representing Prevezon Holdings, Veselnitskaya presented findings she said came from a Russian government report that exonerated her client. The Southern District said today that in fact Veselnitskaya herself helped compile this report, and the fabrication of exculpatory evidence obstructed justice.
What’s notable about Veselnitskaya’s case is the mysterious way she was able to remain in the United States, and later to setup a meeting with then candidate Donald Trump’s son.
In addition to working for Prevezon and the Russian government, Veselnitskaya was working with the the left-wing political opposition firm, Fusion GPS, which had been hired by the DNC and then-U.S. secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to compile “dirt” on Trump. Fusion GPS was simultaneously working for Clinton, the DNC, and Kremlin officials seeking to overturn sanctions on Russian officials known as the Magnitsky Act.
Fusion GPS received its funds from Clinton and the DNC via an intermediary law firm, Perkins Coie, an arrangement that enabled the firm to claim its revenues are protected by “attorney client privilege.” The Federalist reported that Obama for America was likewise funneling money to this Fusion-connected law firm during the 2016 campaign, paying almost $1 million from April – November 2016.
Veselnitskaya was initially turned down for a visa to enter the United States, but received a special “immigration parole letter” from the Department of Homeland Security — which the Obama Justice Department signed off on — that enabled the lawyer’s entry.
“The government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole,” assistant U.S. attorney, Paul Monteleoni, told a court, as reported by The Hill. “That's a discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, we did that so that Mr. Katsyv could testify. And we made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist.”
DHS has since confirmed Veselnitskaya was granted on several occasions entry into the U.S. “at the request of the Justice Department.”
Last year, after President Trump picked up on The Hill’s report and noted Lynch’s role in Veselnitskaya entry into the country, the former attorney general issued a statement that distanced herself from the decision (despite having signed off on it). The statement said Lynch “does not have any personal knowledge of Ms. Veselnitskaya's travel.”
After receiving in June 2016 special permission to be in the United States, Veselnitskaya arranged her infamous meeting with Trump Jr. As The Hill reported:
It was in June 2016 that Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower with Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The Trump players thought the Russian was bringing political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton but she instead used the encounter to talk about the Magnitsky Act, according to released emails and interviews the eldest Trump son gave.
Veselnitskaya then traveled to Washington to continue her efforts to lobby against the anti-Russian law, attending a movie screening, a congressional hearing on Russia and a dinner that included at least one Republican congressman, The Hill has reported.
The lawyer was able to score the meeting with Trump Jr. after promising to deliver dirt on Clinton. Veselnitskaya told NBC News that the supposed information she had on Clinton came from Fusion: “In an interview with NBC News, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya says she first received the supposedly incriminating information she brought to Trump Tower — describing alleged tax evasion and donations to Democrats — from Glenn Simpson, the Fusion GPS owner, who had been hired to conduct research in a New York federal court case.”
According to sources at this Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya didn’t actually have Clinton oppositional research that would be useful for the Trump campaign, but was instead clearly intent on lobbying the campaign against the Magnitsky Act.
Fusion GPS was intimately involved in the meeting, discussing it with Veselnitskaya both before and after she was in Trump Tower. Fox News reported last November:
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya occurred during a critical period. At that time, Fox News has learned that bank records show Fusion GPS was paid by a law firm for work on behalf of a Kremlin-linked oligarch while paying former British spy Christopher Steele to dig up dirt on Trump through his Russian contacts.
But hours before the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, Fusion co-founder and ex-Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson was with Veselnitskaya in a Manhattan federal courtroom, a confidential source told Fox News. Court records reviewed by Fox News, email correspondence and published reports corroborate the pair’s presence together. The source told Fox News they also were together after the Trump Tower meeting.
Fusion GPS was thus working for both Russian officials and the Clinton campaign, which positioned the firm effectively for helping seed the narrative that the Trump team had illicit Russian connections. This Trump Tower meeting, which would have been impossible without the special permissions Veselnitskaya received from the Obama Administration, later served as the basis for Russian “collusion” allegations against the Trump campaign — and, later, as an argument for the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.