Last Monday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Trump team for possible collusion with Russia culminated in its first indictments, with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and longtime Manafort and Trump aide Rick Gates getting formally charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy against the U.S. to money laundering.
Mueller’s investigation is, however, far from over. Something that he has not yet publicly addressed is the 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., other senior members of the Trump team, and Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. That meeting first came to light in July of this year, after documentation of it was discovered in Jared Kushner’s email account.
Trump Jr. initially claimed that the meeting was about “adoptions,” in reference to a Russian ban on American adoptions of Russian children imposed in response to a law punishing corrupt Russian officials.
That issue is far from the entire scope of the meeting, however, as Veselnitskaya has now reiterated in an interview in Moscow.
She says that, in contrast to Trump Jr.’s dismissal of the meeting as meaningless, he actually told her that the Trump Administration, if it were to come into being, would revisit the issue of the anti-corruption law in question, known as the Magnitsky Act.
As she recalls that he told her at their June 2016 meeting:
‘Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it.’
As she reiterated in the newly released interview, that’s not where the meeting ended. Rather, concurrent to the issue of the Magnitsky Act, Veselnitskaya also claimed to have documentation of major Democratic donors skirting U.S. law. Indeed, that’s the topic that drew Trump Jr. to the meeting in the first place, with a publicist for prominent Russians inviting him to come get dirt on Hillary Clinton from Veselnitskaya.
Trump Jr., according to Veselnitskaya, “requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign,” but she “didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.”
Veselnitskaya’s comments drive home an important point. Donald Trump Jr. did not go into his meeting with her in innocence; he knew what he was getting into. Veselnitskaya was marketed to him as a lawyer with information for him from the Russian government, and he repeatedly pressed for that information. Him claiming to have not come away from his meeting with her with any useful information doesn’t make a difference here.
Veselnitskaya has claimed that she did not go into her meeting with Trump Jr. as a representative of the Russian government, but — besides the fact that such is how she was marketed to Trump Jr. — there is evidence that her efforts were, in fact, on behalf of the Kremlin.
In 2015, Veselnitskaya provided a document to the Prosecutor General of Russia that contained information strikingly similar to that which she brought to her meeting with Trump Jr.
Additionally, in April of 2016 — just a short time before she met with Donald Trump Jr. — she participated in a meeting that included a senior official from the Prosecutor General of Russia’s office and U.S. Congressman and infamous Putin sympathizer Dana Rohrabacher.
President Trump has claimed innocence both on his son’s part and the part of his team as a whole time and time again, but we will see what Special Counsel Mueller decides.
This meeting is far from the only issue Mueller is looking into.
He’s been reported to have enough evidence to indict former presidential national security adviser Michael Flynn on charges likely similar to those Manafort is facing.
Trump has, as mentioned, maintained his team’s innocence throughout this whole thing.
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