Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and others in June 2016, said she was also in regular contact with the office of Russia’s top prosecutor, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Veselnitskaya told The Journal she communicated with Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and regularly passed along information about a US-born hedge-fund manager named William Browder, who was a critic of Russia and a supporter of US sanctions that riled the Kremlin.
Veselnitskaya said she worked to spread information about Browder in retaliation for his lobbying on behalf of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which 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.
“She’s been in touch with Chaika daily coordinating the Russian state attack against me,” Browder said in an interview with Business Insider on Friday. “They have initiated a massive list of criminal allegations against me including: murder, espionage, fraud, tax evasion, bankruptcy and slander.”
The development follows several days of shifting statements from President Donald Trump, Trump Jr., and various corners of the White House in which the administration sought to play down Veselnitskaya’s meeting with the president’s eldest son, Kushner, and Manafort, alleging that Veselnitskaya was not involved with the Russian government.
“Most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump said during a Thursday press conference in France, referring to the June 2016 confab. “It’s called opposition research.” Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting because he thought he would be receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
A bipartisan chorus of criticism arose from that meeting over the past week, as federal investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign loom large over the Trump administration.
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