- Thomson Reuters
- The Russian lawyer who met with top Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower brought with her a memo that echoed Kremlin talking points. The man whom the memo targeted said it suggests she was acting as an “agent” of the Kremlin rather than independently. The memo sheds new light on the meeting, which included Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner.
The Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign chairman last June at Trump Tower brought a memo with her to that meeting that contained many of the same talking points as one written by the Russian prosecutor’s office two months earlier.
The memo Natalia Veselnitskaya provided to the Trump campaign last year focused on banker-turned-human rights activist Bill Browder, whose reputation has become inextricably linked to the global human-rights campaign he launched in 2009 after tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison.
Magnitsky was thrown in jail and beaten to death after he discovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme that implicated high-level Kremlin officials, Browder says. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 that sanctioned high-level Russian officials accused of human rights abuses and corruption.
In her memo, which was obtained in full by Foreign Policy, Veselnitskaya described Browder as “a fugitive criminal accused of tax fraud in Russia … who in 1998 renounced US citizenship for tax reasons.”
She called Browder’s story about Magnitsky “never-existent” and said the Magnitsky Act was the product of “a massive three-year lobbying campaign” that began “a new round of the Cold War between” the US and Russia.
The memo further alleged that Browder’s “largest investor was Ziff Brothers Investments,” which helped him buy up Gazprom shares and bypass restrictions imposed by the Kremlin on foreign direct investment in the early 2000s.
“The scheme employed to buy shares not only allowed them to be purchased at prices 1.5 times lower than it should have been, through American depositary receipts, but also allowed the investors and their consultants to avoid state control and monitoring of sources of capital,” Veselnitskaya’s memo said.
The document’s language closely mirrored the contents of a memo provided to Republican US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher by the office of Russia’s chief federal prosecutor Yuri Chaika while Rohrabacher was in Moscow last April.
The document is marked “confidential” but made the rounds on Capitol Hill upon the lawmaker’s return to the US and was obtained by Business Insider.
- REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
According to that memo, “the adoption of this [Magnitsky] Act was preceded by a three-year lobbying campaign of its supporters, which began even before the events described in this Act.”
Chaika’s memo, like Veselnitskaya’s, says Browder “renounced his US citizenship in 1998 for tax reasons” and implemented “an illegal scheme of buying up Gazprom shares by foreign companies to bypass the ban on foreign direct investments…without permission” from the Kremlin.
“The applied share purchase scheme not only allowed buying the shares at a price 1.5 times lower than through the American depository receipts, but also allowed investors and their advisers avoid government control and monitoring of capital sources,” read the Chaika document.
Veselnitskaya’s memo was two pages longer than the one the Russian prosecutor’s office gave to the congressman. It contained more allegations against Browder as well as references to Rohrabacher – who the memo alleged was prevented from checking “the objectivity” of Browder’s story by his colleagues on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
But the memos’ similarities shed light on music publicist Rob Goldstone’s original email to Trump Jr. pitching the meeting.
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone wrote.
The memo Veselnitskaya gave to Trump Jr. contained only one reference to Clinton, claiming that it could “not be ruled out” that the Ziff Brothers “financed” Clinton’s campaign. Still, many speculated when Trump Jr. released the emails that Goldstone’s remark about Russia’s “crown prosecutor” was a reference to Chaika.
Chaika is close to Aras Agalarov, Trump’s former business partner, whose son is represented by Goldstone, and Veselnitskaya “is very close to the Chaika family,” the Atlantic’s Julia Ioffe reported in July.
Browder told Business Insider on Monday that “the Veselnitskaya memo has exactly the same talking points as the Russian government’s position on the Magnitsky case.”
“That is the strongest indication to date that Veselnitskaya is an agent of the Russian government and not some independent operator as she claims,” he said.
Read Veselnitskaya’s memo at Foreign Policy and Chaika’s memo below: