Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with several well-connected Russians to discuss US sanctions legislation prior to travelling to New York last June for a meeting with top Trump campaign officials, her attorney told The Washington Post on Monday.
One of those well-connected Russians was President Donald Trump’s former business partner Aras Agalarov, who Veselnitskaya said connected her with his son’s music publicist, Rob Goldstone.
Veselnitskaya wrote to Goldstone on the morning of the meeting asking if she could bring Rinat Akhmetshin, whom she described as a “lobbyist and trusted associate.” Akhmetshin, she wrote, had been “working to advance these issues with several congressmen.”
Veselnitskaya’s attorney, Scott Balber, shared that email with the Post and CNN because he thought it would prove Veselnitskaya had not offered the campaign damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in exchange for the meeting.
But it is not clear whether that was the only email exchanged between Veselnitsksya and Goldstone, who wrote to Donald Trump Jr. on June 3 that “The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
The information, Goldstone added, “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The emails also reveal a new discrepancy between Veselnitskaya’s and Akhmetshin’s version of events. Akhmetshin, a Russian-American dual citizen and longtime DC lobbyist, initially said Veselnitskaya had asked him to attend the meeting over lunch on June 9 — roughly four hours before she was due at Trump Tower.
But Veselnitskaya emailed Goldstone at 9:24 a.m. asking if Akhmetshin could attend the meeting. And she said Akhmetshin had already signed a nondisclosure agreement.
Michael Tremonte, a lawyer for Akhmetshin, said Akhmetshin was invited to the meeting over lunch.
“He has no recollection of signing a nondisclosure agreement in connection with the meeting and was not aware of the communications between Ms. Veselnitskaya and Mr. Goldstone,” Tremonte told the Post.
Trump Jr. said in his initial statement about the meeting — which was also attended by Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner — that they “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”
That statement, released on July 8, turned out to be misleading. It did not mention that Trump Jr. had been promised damaging information on Clinton in exchange for taking the meeting in the first place, and it did not mention that Akhmetshin had attended, too.
One day later, Trump Jr. clarified: “The woman [Veselnitskaya] stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. … It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Balber, Veselnitskaya’s attorney, told CNN that Veselnitsksaya had been focused on launching “a legislative review of the Magnitsky Act,” but did not explicitly deny that Veselnitsksya had offered information on Clinton. He also did not go into detail about which “well-connected Russians” Veselnitskaya met with prior to travelling to New York, or what they discussed.
Balber did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
The Magnitsky Act was passed to punish those suspected of being involved in the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who is believed to have 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, and Russia’s adoption policy was altered to bar American families from adopting Russian children in retaliation for the signing of the Magnitsky Act in 2012.
Veselnitskaya is the family lawyer for Denis Katsyv, the son of senior Russian government official Pyotr Katsyv and owner of the Cyprus-incorporated real-estate company Prevezon. Prevezon 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.
While it is possible that Veselnitskaya promised compromising information she did not have in order to get in the door with the Trump campaign, it is unlikely she would have attended the meeting empty-handed, said Bill Browder, the founder of the investment advisory firm Hermitage Capital who spearheaded the Magnitsky Act.
“Asking Donald Trump Jr. and the rest to withdraw the Magnitsky Act if Trump were elected was such a significant request that they would have come with various things to offer, and they would have thought carefully about what,” Browder said earlier this year. “They wouldn’t have come to this meeting empty-handed.”
Read the email exchange below:
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