In an admission that should surprise nobody, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower in June 2016 to discuss dirt on Hillary Clinton really was in fact working for the Russian government, surprise, I know, hey look collusion!
The Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officialsin Trump Tower in June 2016 on the premise that she would deliver damaging information about Hillary Clinton has long insisted she is a private attorney, not a Kremlin operative trying to meddle in the presidential election.
But newly released emails show that in at least one instance two years earlier, the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, worked hand in glove with Russia’s chief legal office to thwart a Justice Department civil fraud case against a well-connected Russian firm.
Ms. Veselnitskaya also appears to have recanted her earlier denials of Russian government ties. During an interview to be broadcast Friday by NBC News, she acknowledged that she was not merely a private lawyer but a source of information for a top Kremlin official, Yuri Y. Chaika, the prosecutor general.
“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”
The previously undisclosed details about Ms. Veselnitskaya rekindle questions about who she was representing when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others at Trump Tower in Manhattan during the campaign. The meeting, one focus of the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference, was organized after an intermediary promised that Ms. Veselnitskaya would deliver documents that would incriminate Mrs. Clinton.
Ms. Veselnitskaya had long insisted that she met the president’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman in a private capacity, not as a representative of the Russian government.
Let's review our files on Natalia Valerie Veselnitskaya, here, shall we?
First of all, we knew she was petitioning the Trump campaign to kill sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.
That was her price. The prize was dirt on Clinton. We also know that Russia's favorite House Republican, Dana Rohrabacher, was also very keen on stopping the Magnitsky Act.
Rohrabacher’s office was given the film by the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, which is run by Yuri Chaika, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin who is accused of widespread corruption, and Viktor Grin, the deputy general prosecutor who has been sanctioned by the United States as part of the Magnitsky Act.
That same Prosecutor General’s office also was listed as being behind the “very high level and sensitive information” that was offered to Donald Trump Jr. in an email prior to his now infamous meeting with Russian officials at Trump Tower on June 9—just days before the congressional hearing. Veselnitskaya attended that meeting with Trump Jr. She also happens to have worked as a prosecutor in the Moscow region and is a close personal friend of Chaika.
The Daily Beast reviewed a copy of a document that was passed to Rohrabacher in Moscow in April 2016. The document, marked “confidential,” was given to Rohrabacher and Behrends. It lays out an alternate reality in which the U.S.—and the rest of the world—has been duped by a fake $230 million scandal that resulted in sanctions being imposed on 44 Russians linked to murder, corruption, or cover-ups.
We know that Veselnitskaya, and through her, Yuri Chaika, were delivering instructions to both the Trump campaign and Rohrabacher's office.
Natalia V. Veselnitskaya arrived at a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 hoping to interest top Trump campaign officials in the contents of a memo she believed contained information damaging to the Democratic Party and, by extension, Hillary Clinton. The material was the fruit of her research as a private lawyer, she has repeatedly said, and any suggestion that she was acting at the Kremlin’s behest that day is anti-Russia “hysteria.”
But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.
The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman. It also suggests that emails from an intermediary to the younger Mr. Trump promising that Ms. Veselnitskaya would arrive with information from Russian prosecutors were rooted at least partly in fact — not mere “puffery,” as the president’s son later said.
Remember, even Steve Bannon thought Trump Jr. and Manafort meeting with Veselnitskaya was a terrible idea in a quote from Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury.
He is particularly scathing about a June 2016 meeting involving Trump’s son Donald Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York. A trusted intermediary had promised documents that would “incriminate” rival Hillary Clinton but instead of alerting the FBI to a potential assault on American democracy by a foreign power, Trump Jr replied in an email: “I love it.”
The meeting was revealed by the New York Times in July last year, prompting Trump Jr to say no consequential material was produced. Soon after, Wolff writes, Bannon remarked mockingly: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers.
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
And now Veselnitskaya is admitting herself that she was working for Yuri Chaika, part of Putin's inner circle. No wonder then that the GOP head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck "Assume deer dead" Grassley, wants to release the transcripts of the Committee's interviews about the meeting.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week that he is eager to release transcripts of interviews with Donald Trump Jr. and other participants in a 2016 Trump Tower meeting that included a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer.
Grassley first announced plans to release the transcripts in January, one day after two committee Democrats urged him to share them with special counsel Robert Mueller. Three months later, Grassley told POLITICO that the transcripts "ought to be getting out" following some redactions, describing it as the next step in the committee's Russia oversight work.
"I don’t understand the process of redaction, I’m not an authority in that, and I think you have to have people who are an authority in it," Grassley said in a Tuesday interview. "But we ought to get the redactions done and get them out."
Aside from Trump Jr., the committee anticipates releasing written responses from Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower alongside the president's eldest son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
A Republican Judiciary panel aide said Grassley's "staff has completed its work to redact personally identifiable information, law enforcement sensitive material and third party personal information irrelevant to our inquiry."
Meanwhile in the House, Republicans have no officially washed their hands of the Russia investigation and have of course cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee found no evidence during a monthslong investigation that the Trump campaign aided Russia’s election meddling, the lawmakers concluded in a 250-page report released on Friday that assails President Trump’s political rivals and criticizes the F.B.I. and the intelligence community for their responses to Moscow’s interference.
But in a dissenting document, Democrats on the committee accused the Republicans of prematurely closing the investigation out of a desire to protect Mr. Trump and asserted that eagerness by Trump campaign associates to accept offers of Russian assistance suggest “a consciousness of wrongfulness, if not illegality.”
The strikingly divergent conclusions closed a chapter for a congressional committee that, while charged with oversight of American spy agencies, has fractured into warring factions that often seemed to see the advancement of political agendas as their primary mission.
In the charged political climate that has engulfed Washington, the report — the first out of several government investigations into Russia’s interference — immediately served as a useful political tool for Mr. Trump and his allies. The president seized on the Republicans’ findings, extolling the conclusions on Twitter and calling the inquiries “A total Witch Hunt!”
“MUST END NOW!” he added.
I expect another story in a month or so about how Trump had to be talked out of firing Mueller again this weekend.