The breaking story overnight has been about Natalia Veselnitskaya, the shadowy Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner on June 9, 2016. They thought she was a Russian government official there to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton. In reality, she was more closely linked with the firm delivering dirt on Trump to his opponents.
At the heart of all this is the opposition research company Fusion GPS, which was formed by former Wall Street Journal employees. It’s interesting that Josh Rogan, of the Washington Post, was one of the first reporters to break this story last night. He apparently spoke directly to them. The media is a small club.
Fusion GPS told me its work on the Prevezon case had nothing to do with the 2016 presidential election and they were not involved in the outreach to the Trump campaign.
Even more in the epicenter: Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, whose Prezevon Holdings was fighting a government money laundering case, hired Fusion GPS, and was also linked to Veselnitskaya. Prezevon’s business interests were hurt by sanctions imposed by Congress’ 2012 Magnitsky Act, which was named for a Russian Journalist who died in prison.
The Daily Mail focuses on Katsyv and Prezevon in their report.
Whether the lobbying campaign was directly coordinated with the Kremlin is up for debate. Katsyv had personal financial interests. But his motivations were also in line with the Kremlin, which has also fought to unravel the Magnitsky Act.
Fusion GPS was working for “unnamed Republican clients” when they hired Christopher Steele, the former British MI6 agent, who gathered the infamous “dossier” filled with uncorroborated and wild claims of Russian government blackmail (“kompromat”) of Trump.
Erick Erickson notes more “nuggets” suggesting there’s more to the story here.
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 She had been given temporary parole, allowing her to enter the country with an expired visa, but it has been revoked by 2016.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.
Plus, as Hidden America blog exposed, Veselnitskaya was fairly active on social media, posting pictures of anti-Trump protesters. (Although they published a debunked photo of Sen. John McCain she claimed to have taken, also tweeted by Internet troll Jack Posobiec.)
What is apparent from all this is Veselnitskaya was not there to help Donald Trump, or provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. She was working for her own paid business interests, her clients, to oppose the Magnitsky Act. She was connected with the firm hired to collect Russian dirt on Trump. She was herself more aligned with Democrats.
But Trump, Jr. took the meeting. As David French wrote, no, you don’t “take the meeting.” Whether it was a setup (very possible) or not, Trump’s son made himself the mark.
This story will need time to unravel in order to shed light on the darkest corner of foreign influence, money, and power emanating from Moscow into the heart of Washington.
Now the investigation moves into a new phase, one where Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has some influence.
Grassley has scheduled an as yet unannounced hearing July 19 entitled, “Oversight of the Justice Department’s (Non) enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act,” which will include testimony from William Browder, the chief of Hermitage Capital, who filed the complaint against Fusion GPS and several other entities he alleges were working on behalf of the Russians.
The sooner the better we can get to the bottom of this stinking, fetid hole.