- Natalia Veselnitskaya / Facebook
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who took a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016, denied to NBC on July 11 that she worked for the Russian government, or that she had connections to the Russian government, answering “Nyet” to both questions in a TV interview.
Trump Jr. says he met with Veselnitskaya because he thought she was going to give him negative information from Russian “opposition research” about Hillary Clinton. The meeting “went nowhere,” Trump Jr. said last night, as Veselnitskaya had no information to give. “It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes,” Trump Jr. said.
But the US Senate Judiciary Committee will hear next week from a source who believes Veselnitskaya has several connections to the Russian government, according to The Daily Beast.
That source is William Browder, an American hedge fund investor whose Moscow lawyer was beaten to death in a Russian prison in 2009 after he discovered a fraud in which Russian government officials had divided $230 million in bogus tax refunds amongst themselves. The lawyers’ name was Sergei Magnitsky, and the US Magnitsky Act – named after him – prevents the Russian officials responsible for his death from entering the US.
According to Browder, Veselnitskaya’s clients and colleagues include:
- HRAGI (the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation), a lobbying group that wants Congress to undo the Magnitsky Act. HRAGI claims its main goal is to end the Russian government ban on American parents adopting Russian orphans. The orphan ban was enacted by President Vladimir Putin as a retaliation for the Magnitsky Act. HRAGI lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, allegedly a former “soviet counterintelligence officer,” according to a press release from US Sen. Chuck Grassley. Akhmetshin has “has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters,” Grassley claims. The Beast says Akhmetshin is not currently employed by the Russian government. Vladimir Lelyukh, named as a HRAGI lobbyist on this US government disclosure form, who is an executive at Sberbank Capital, according to Bloomberg. Although not a direct connection to Veselnitskaya, Sberbank Capital CEO Ashot Khachaturyants is a former Russian head of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, Bloomberg reported. Herman Gref, the chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank of Russia, attended a dinner with Donald Trump in 2013 when the Trump-owned Miss Universe contest was held in Moscow, The Daily Beast says. Sberbank was an official sponsor of the show, according to Bloomberg. Also at that dinner were Emin Agalarov and his father, Alas Agalarov. The Agalarovs urged the meeting in 2016 between Trump Jr. and Vesilnitskaya, according to Trump Jr.’s emails. Between 2000 and 2007 Gref was Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation, according to his official bio. Sberbank Capital was also named as a defendant in a lawsuit in a New York federal court over a dispute about the takeover of a Russian granite company. In March, Sberbank appointed Marc E. Kasowitz to represent it in the case. He is President Trump’s personal lawyer.