A new report indicates that the Russian-born lobbyist who attended the infamous June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and a Kremlin-connected lawyer also had extensive contacts with Russian government officials.
Rinat Akhmetshin is now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller because of those connections, according to a report by The New York Times. Akhmetshin was present at the infamous June 2016 meeting in which campaign manager Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in the hope of obtaining damaging materials about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Akhmetshin's presence at that meeting has attracted Mueller's attention in large part because of Akhmetshin's extensive ties to powerful Russian government officials. These include the former deputy head of the FSB (Russia's spy service) and Russian tycoons whose opponents were targeted by hacking attacks and allies of President Vladimir Putin. Akhmetshin also helped bring corruption charges against an American businessman who was working for the CIA and helped undermine American attempts to maintain troops at a Kyrgyz air base that Russia disliked.
Considering that the June 2016 meeting that Akhmetshin attended occurred less than a week before it was discovered that hackers had broken into the Democratic National Committee's computers, his alleged involvement in two hacking scandals has received particular attention in Mueller's investigation. (The Times noted that "there is no public evidence that Mr. Akhmetshin played any role in the D.N.C. hack.") One case occurred in 2011 when two London lawyers working for Russian businessman Ashot Egiazaryan received emails containing spyware that was intended to infiltrate their computers; these were eventually traced back to the Moscow offices of Egiazaryan, with whom Akhmetshin was working. In the end, Scotland Yard decided that they did not have enough evidence to bring any charges.
On the second occasion, Akhmetshin was accused of computer espionage after documents from a business dispute to which he was a party were leaked online and to journalists. One investigator testified that he had witnessed Akhmetshin hand an external hard drive to another person at a cafe in London and overheard him discussing paying Russian hackers for the materials. Their lawsuit was dropped in early 2016.