A former Soviet military intelligence officer-turned-lobbyist attended the meeting at Trump Tower last June with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, NBC News reported Friday.
Veselnitskaya told NBC that she was accompanied by one other man, but she would not identify him. NBC is withholding his identity.
Trump Jr. said he agreed to meet with Veselnitskaya last June at Trump Tower to discuss compromising information she said she had on Hillary Clinton, but was disappointed the meeting instead focused on Russia’s adoption policy. Veselnitskaya later told NBC that she didn’t have derogatory information on Clinton and asked for the meeting to talk about the Magnitsky Act.
The Magnitsky Act was passed to punish those suspected of being involved in the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a $US230 million tax fraud scheme in 2008 that implicated high-level Kremlin officials and allies of President Vladimir Putin. The scheme quickly snowballed into one of the biggest corruption scandals of Putin’s tenure. The act authorizes the US president to deny visas to, and freeze the assets of, Russians believed to have been complicit in Magnitsky’s death.
There are several indications that the lobbyist in the meeting was Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist accused of having ties to Soviet military intelligence who has been working to overturn the Magnitsky Act since at least last year.
“I wasn’t there so I’m just relying on the NBC report, but there is only one person who fits that profile,” said William Browder, the founder of the investment advisory firm Hermitage Capital who spearheaded the Magnitsky Act after his death.
Radio Free Europe profiled Akhmetshin, who has denied any current relationship to Russia’s spy agencies, last July — roughly one month after he organised the showing of an anti-Magnitsky Act film at the Newseum in Washington, DC.
Additionally, RFE/RL reported, Akhmetshin visited the Russia-friendly congressman Dana Rohrabacher last May along with Ron Dellums, a former California congressman and longtime Washington lobbyist. Dellums said the meeting was to discuss Russia’s adoption policy, while Akhmetshin said it was to discuss the real-estate firm Prevezon.
Prevezon, owned by Denis Katsyv, was under investigation by the Department of Justice at the time of Veselnitskaya’s meeting with Trump Jr. over whether it laundered millions of dollars — allegedly stolen in the tax fraud scheme that Magnitsky uncovered — into New York City real estate.
Denis Katsyv, the son of senior Russian government official Pyotr Katsyv, is represented by Veselnitskaya and has been at the center of efforts to overturn the adoption ban — which would start with the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. In February 2016, Katsyv registered a nonprofit company in Delaware called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, the stated aim of which is to overturn the ban.
Records list Akhmetshin as the lead lobbyist for the foundation, according to RFERL.