The Russian lawyer who offered Donald Trump Jr. damaging information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly has ties to the opposition research firm that commissioned the dossier on President Donald Trump.
When the June 2016 meeting took place, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was in New York to defend Prevezon, a Russian holding firm accused of laundering money for corrupt Russian businessmen. Veselnitskaya had been working on the case for years with assistance from Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that compiled the Trump dossier.
Fusion GPS denied any knowledge of, or role in, facilitating the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr.
“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it,” the company told The Washington Post. “Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is false.”
The 2016 meeting at Trump Tower concluded after Trump Jr. realized Veselnitskaya had no information on Clinton and her true motivation was to gain an audience to voice her opposition to Russia sanctions.
Specifically, Veselnitskaya was there to criticize the Magnitsky Act, which imposed heavy sanctions on Russian businessmen connected to the 2009 murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky was killed in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud perpetrated by corrupt Russian officials. He uncovered the fraud while representing Hermitage Capital founder William Browder. Hermitage’s assets were seized by corrupt Russian officials in 2006.
Magnitsky testified against the corrupt Russian Interior Ministry officials who committed the tax fraud. He was imprisoned for 358 days by those same officials, tortured and eventually beaten to death.
In response to Magnitsky’s murder, Browder lobbied Congress to impose sanctions on the Russian officials involved in the seizing of his firm’s assets and Magnitsky’s subsequent murder. The resulting sanctions infuriated Putin, who responded by banning American adoption of Russian children.
“Repealing the Magnitsky Act was the single biggest priority of Vladimir Putin and she was acting as the single most active proxy of the Russian government to achieve that objective in Washington,” Browder told The Washington Post. “I’m sure that this was an attempt by the Russian government to repeal sanctions that annoyed them by going to the possible next president of the United States.”
Veselnitskaya has been heavily involved in lobbying efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act for years, specifically in her role defending Prevezon, a Russian holding company accused by the Department of Justice of laundering a portion of the $230 million in fraudulently reclaimed Hermitage taxes.
Before Fusion GPS became embroiled in the Trump dossier scandal, the firm was contracted by BakerHostetler in 2013 to assist with the Prevezon case, it was in the course of their work on the Prevezon case that Fusion GPS had contact with Veselnitskaya, as her firm, Kamerton Consulting, personally represented Prevezon’s owner Denis Katsyv.
The case settled in May, Prevezon had to pay the U.S. government $6 million but did not have to admit they laundered the illegally obtained funds.
Fusion GPS’ denial of involvement in the meeting hasn’t prevented the Trump legal team from building a narrative around Veselnitskaya’s connection to the now well known opposition research firm.
Spokesman for Trump’s outside counsel, Mark Corallo, emphasized Veselnitskaya’s relationship with Fusion GPS.
“Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the president and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier,” Corallo said in the Monday statement.