by Matthew Vadum
Did the Russian lawyer visit the Trump campaign to undermine it?
It turns out the Moscow-based lawyer whose brief meeting with Trump campaign officials last year was obtained under false pretenses has significant ties to Democrat opposition researchers in the United States and was extended special privileges by the Obama administration.
Could this mean attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya came, or perhaps was sent, to America to hurt Donald Trump’s campaign for president? And if Veselnitskaya had less-than-honorable intentions, what role, if any, did Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee play in this unfolding drama?
The Hill newspaper reports that the Obama administration went to extraordinary lengths to allow Veselnitskaya to enter the U.S. and remain here to complete her business in this country. After Veselnitskaya, who reportedly has several pro-Hillary Clinton and anti-Donald Trump items on her Facebook page, was denied a U.S. visa, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch personally intervened and cleared the way for her to come to this country.
British music publicist Rob Goldstone helped to set up the storied June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan between Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, claiming boastfully in an email exchange with Donald Jr. that the Russians wanted to share incriminating information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
We now know Veselnitskaya had no earth-shattering revelations to impart about the Russia-friendly former secretary of state who was then running against Donald Trump. Instead of offering “Political Opposition Research” at the roughly 20-minute-long get-together, the Russian woman “had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act,” Donald Trump Jr. said earlier this week in a statement on Twitter.
The Magnitsky Act, which Russian President Vladimir Putin despises, allows the U.S. government to refuse visas to Russians considered guilty of human rights violations. After it was enacted at the end of 2012, Russia retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian orphans and banning entry to Russia by specific U.S. officials.
Veselnitskaya, who was a prosecutor in Russia 16 years ago, told NBC News she “never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton,” adding she wanted to let people know about "the real circumstances behind the Magnitsky Act," and was hoping to testify about the sanctions statute before Congress.
There is some evidence that Democrats were working with Russia against the Trump campaign, radio talk show host Erick Erickson suggests.
“There is a remarkably small degree of separation between Natalia Veselnitskaya and Fusion GPS, the Democrat opposition research firm that came up with the Trump dossier,” Erickson writes, and this “raise[s] the issue of whether Democrats and Russians were as collaborative as the Democrats claim the Trump team was.”
The “piss-gate” dossier is the unvetted 35-page report written by former British spy Christopher Steele and published by cat-video website BuzzFeed. The FBI had been considering paying Steele “for his Trump dossier work,” Erickson notes.
“Fusion GPS was paid by a Democratic ally of Hillary Clinton’s to conduct the research,” the Daily Caller reported. The dubious document claimed, among other things, that Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on a hotel room bed in Moscow.
In 2012, the Russian government hired an army of lobbyists and lawyers to pursue repeal of the Magnitsky Act. One of the law firms retained was Baker Hostetler, which has ties to Fusion GPS. Fusion itself was co-founded by former journalist Glenn Simpson.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said Fusion worked on behalf of Russian interests but did not register as a foreign agent as required by federal law. “Fusion GPS was apparently simultaneously working on the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between Trump presidential campaign associates and Russia” while at the same time helping the Russian government with the Magnitsky Act.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice began trying to seize ill-gotten gains possessed by Russian-owned Prevezon Holdings, Grassley explained. Prevezon and the Russian government then began a campaign – in which Fusion GPS participated – to undermine the Magnitsky Act.
Natalia Veselnitskaya also worked for Preveson Holdings, Erickson writes, and, according to Russian media outlet Sputnik News, had “evidence” that could bolster the effort to repeal the Magnitsky Act.
In addition, Veselnitskaya worked with Rinat Akhmetshin, founder of the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, a man who has admitted to previously working as a “Soviet counterintelligence officer,” Erickson writes.
Of Akhmetshin, Grassley said:
In fact, it has been reported that he worked for the GRU and allegedly specializes in “active measures campaigns,” i.e., subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda. According to press accounts, Mr. Akhmetshin “is known in foreign policy circles as a key pro-Russian operator,” and Radio Free Europe described him as a “Russian ‘gun-for-hire’ [who] lurks in the shadows of Washington’s lobbying world.” He was even accused in a lawsuit of organizing a scheme to hack the computers of one his client’s adversaries.Akhmetshin’s group happened to have retained Veselnitskaya as an attorney.
While all of this is going on, Fusion GPS is working on the opposition research dossier on Donald Trump using a foreign agent. Are we really supposed to believe that it is completely coincidental that Natalia Veselnitskaya just so happens to be the Russian lawyer who got access to Donald Trump, Jr.? Are we to believe that there is no direct relationship between Veselnitskaya and Fusion GPS?So many incredible coincidences, if that’s what they are.
It is remarkable how she gets a PR agent to urge Trump, Jr. to meet with her by promising Russian information about Hillary Clinton’s emails as the Clinton email server story is blowing up. And then it is remarkable how she gives a perfect performance to NBC News two days ago claiming she only talked with Trump about the Magnitsky Act, but assured the press that the Trump team was hoping for dirt on Hillary.
Matthew Vadum, senior vice president at the investigative think tank Capital Research Center, is an award-winning investigative reporter and author of the book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."
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