This will not get nearly as much coverage as Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, but it does raise the issue of whether Democrats and Russians were as collaborative as the Democrats claim the Trump team was. 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.
In 2012, the Russian government started hiring hordes of Washington law firms, lobbyists, political strategist, and others to get the Magnitsky Act repealed. The act, named for Sergei Magnitsky, sought to hold the Russian government accountable for the man’s death. Mr. Magnitsky was a lawyer who uncovered massive tax fraud in Russia. He was arrested, tortured while in prison, and died.
One of the law firms hired by Russia to work on repeal is Baker Hostetler, which also has ties to Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS. According to Senator Chuck Grassley, who wants Fusion GPS officials to testify before the Senate, Fusion GPS was also involved with the Russians over the Magnitsky Act. Senator Grassley’s office notes “Despite the reported evidence of their work on behalf of Russian interests, neither Fusion GPS nor Akhmetshin are registered as foreign agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).”
Grassley continued, “Fusion GPS was apparently simultaneously working on the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between Trump presidential campaign associates and Russia” while helping Russia with the Magnitsky Act. It also appears the FBI was willing to pay Christopher Steele, the former spy, who helped Fusion GPS compile the dossier.
Now, let me quote directly from the Chuck Grassley press release on Fusion GPS with the major, relevant portions highlighted:
In 2013, the Justice Department opened a case to seize the U.S. assets of Russian-owned Prevezon Holdings, which received millions of dollars from the theft and used it to purchase real estate in New York, according to the department’s complaint. In response, Prevezon Holdings and the Kremlin launched a campaign to undermine the Magnitsky Act and discredit Magnitsky’s claims of corruption, according to a 2016 complaint by Hermitage CEO William Browder. Fusion GPS and Rinat Akhmetshin, among others, were involved in the pro-Russia campaign in 2016, which involved lobbying congressional staffers to attempt to undermine the Justice Department’s account of Magnitsky’s death and the crime he uncovered, repeal the Magnitsky Act itself, and delay efforts to expand it to countries beyond Russia, according to Browder’s complaint. Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant, has reportedly admitted to being a “soviet counterintelligence officer,” and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters. Fusion GPS was reportedly tasked with generating negative press coverage of Browder and Hermitage.
You know who else worked for Preveson Holdings? Natalia Veselnitskaya.
According to Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik News, Veselnitskaya had “evidence showing that the grounds for the Magnitsky Act are based on lies perpetuated by UK millionaire of US origin William Browder.”
In addition to working for Prevezon Holdings and working against William Browder, just like Fusion GPS was doing, Veselnitskaya also had dealings with Rinat Akhmetshin, the founder of the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation. As noted above, Akhmetshin was named by Senator Grassley as sharing work with Fusion GPS against Browder. In a letter to the Department of Justice, Senator Chuck Grassley says this about Akhmetshin:
It is particularly disturbing that Mr. Akhmetshin and Fusion GPS were working together on this pro-Russia lobbying effort in 2016 in light of Mr. Akhmetshin’s history and reputation. Mr. Akhmetshin is a Russian immigrant to the U.S. who has admitted having been a “Soviet counterintelligence officer.” 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.
As you know, Fusion GPS is the company behind the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and Russia. It is highly troubling that Fusion GPS appears to have been working with someone with ties to Russian intelligence –let alone someone alleged to have conducted political disinformation campaigns– as part of a pro-Russia lobbying effort while also simultaneously overseeing the creation of the Trump/Russia dossier. The relationship casts further doubt on an already highly dubious dossier.
Radio Free Europe has a story noting Akhmetshin’s group had hired Veselnitskaya as an attorney:
Prevezon and the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation overlap in another way. In an e-mail sent in April to a Warsaw-based NGO that was hosting a speech by Browder, Russian Natalia Veselnitskaya identified herself as a lawyer working on behalf of the foundation and sought permission to attend, according to officials with the NGO, called the Open Dialog Foundation. Veselnitskaya is also a lawyer for Prevezon.
So let’s tie all this together.
Prevezon, which is a Russian group, hires Fusion GPS and Rinat Akhmetshin to generate negative press coverage on a British citizen. Prevezon also hires as legal counsel both Baker Hostetler and Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Rinat Akhmetshin also puts Natalia Veselnitskaya on the payroll.
Rinat Akhmetshin, who works in collaboration with Fusion GPS at the time it is preparing the Trump dossier, is an admitted “Soviet counterintelligence officer” who specializes in “subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda.”
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?
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.
It is also really remarkable that this all happens as Fusion GPS is prepping its opposition dossier and a New York Times reporter who has been following the story admits it was a year ago, at that time, that someone tipped him off about the meeting.
Add to all of that two more nuggets. Natalia Veselnitskaya had been denied a visa into the United States. She had been given temporary parole, allowing her to enter the country with an expired visa, but it has been revoked by 2016. Still, Veselnitskaya was able to enter the US anyway to meet with Trump, Jr. in the middle of 2016. It is my understanding this could have only happened in one of two ways. First, she could have argued she was the sole lawyer of representation for her client, but Baker Hostetler also represented Prevezon. She could also have been allowed into the country if she had a collaborative relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You know, the organization that was considering paying Christopher Steele for his Trump dossier work prepared for Fusion GPS.
Also, Ms Veselnitskaya, on her Facebook page, purportedly had several pro-Hillary Clinton posts and anti-Trump posts.
There are three questions reporters should be asking right now.
What is the relationship between Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS and Natalia Veselnitskaya?
Did Veselnitskaya serve as a source for the “Trump Dossier”?
Who retained Veselnitskaya to attempt to meet with Donald Trump, Jr.?
One final point: the issue is not whether this excuses Donald Trump, Jr. for poor judgment. The issue is whether certain Democrats were collaborating with Russians at a time Democrats claim the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russians. Both sides should have been dubious of Russians bearing gifts and it looks increasingly likely that neither side was. The Democrats could be trying to undermine Donald Trump with as much help from the Russians as they claim Trump received from Russia.