Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who was party to the notorious Trump Tower meeting during the 2016 campaign — one that’s seen as important to the question of Russian collusion in that election — was charged Tuesday with obstruction in a different case.
According to the New York Times, Veselnitskaya has been charged by federal prosecutors in New York with obstruction in connection with a case involving money laundering.
The case is significant in that it establishes that Veselnitskaya has close ties to the Russian government. And while Tuesday’s indictment of Veselnitskaya doesn’t involve the Trump Tower meeting itself, it may possibly shed light on what was really going on there — a major question of the ongoing Mueller probe.
The charges were brought by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, which charged that Veselnitskaya worked with a Russian prosecutor on the Russian response to a civil fraud investigation — regarding money laundering — conducted by the Justice Department. When the Department of Justice asked Russia’s government to help with the probe, Russia refused, and Veselnitskaya assisted with the letter expressing that refusal.
The 43-year-old Veselnitskaya is a lawyer who has done work for various Russian officials, and has also advocated for the Magnitsky Act — the 2012 law signed by Barack Obama, which imposed sanctions on Russia.
The Magnitsky Act was the supposed subject of the Trump Tower meeting, which took place on June 9, 2016, at Trump’s campaign offices. The then-candidate’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., was contacted by music publicist Rob Goldstone. Goldstone told the younger Trump that he had dirt on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and that a “Russian government attorney” would present it to him.
That attorney was Veselnitskaya, who went on to meet with the the eldest son of Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Goldstone, and two others. Rather than dirt, per the New York Times, Veselnitskaya reportedly pushed for a repeal of the Magnitsky Act — while also bringing up the restrictions of American adoptions from Russia that Vladimir Putin had imposed in retaliation.
In July of 2017, Trump’s camp put out contradictory explanations of the meeting. Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out the entire email chain not long afterward. The meaning of the Trump Tower meeting appears to be a subject of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller — and his ongoing probe into potential Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
Veselnitskaya had downplayed her ties to the Russian government at the time of these disclosures, but the indictment filed against her this week may appear to contradict those denials.
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