One of the lingering questions about a controversial meeting last year between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians claiming to have information that would hurt Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is whether any of the Russians had government ties.
Now we know that the main Russian contact at the meeting – lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya – represented Russia’s FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet KGB, which the Obama administration sanctioned last year for allegedly hacking the U.S. presidential election.
According to Russian legal filings examined by Reuters, Veselnitskaya represented the FSB between 2005 and 2013 in a property dispute involving the security service and the country’s government property management agency.
While there’s still no evidence that Veselnitskaya is a government employee, the fact she represented the intelligence agency believed by the U.S. government to have meddled in the U.S. presidential election could become a hot issue on Capitol Hill. Any ties between a belligerent foreign government and the Trump team would become a huge problem for the administration that could help build a case for impeachment.
In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law and White House staffer Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Veselnitskaya and others at Trump Tower in Manhattan to discuss information they claimed to have that would help Donald Trump win the election. Revelations of the meeting has spurred congressional investigations into communications between President Donald Trump and Russia.
Though Trump Jr. says nothing cane from the meeting, critics argue that even an attempt to meet with foreign nationals with the understanding they have damming (and illegally obtained) information on Trump’s political rival indicated an attempt to collude that raises legal questions. The president has defended the meeting as just politics as usual, that campaign officials often meet with sources claiming to have dirt on political rivals.
On Wednesday, Veselnitskaya told CNN she was willing testify before the U.S. Senate provided she was offered guarantees for her safety.