Russian lawyer who met with Don Jr. is building her defense — and raising big questions for Trump

Email from Russian lawyer seems to support her story that she never claimed to have Clinton dirt

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 9, 2017 4:20PM (EDT)

Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)

A Russian lawyer who has recently become central to one Trump-related scandal following her June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in New York City has now released an email that she hopes can help clear her name.

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya asked Rob Goldstone, who arranged a meeting with top members of the Trump campaign, to include a Russian-American lobbyist so that they could discuss the Magnitsky Act, according to an email obtained by CNN. This email was supplemented with a five-page memo of talking points in which Veselnitskaya repeatedly referenced the Magniskty Act and only briefly mentioned a potential financier to Hillary Clinton's campaign.

In the email, Veselnitskaya asked Goldstone if he could run by the Trump people — who included son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort — the possibility of bringing a "lobbyist and trusted associate" named Rinat Akhmetshin, according to The Washington Post. Akhmetshin was described as a man who was "working to advance these issues with several congressmen," referring to his work to have the sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act — including some that impacted adoptions — to be altered.

"He has invaluable knowledge about the positions held by the members of the Foreign Relations Committee that will be important to our discussion," Veselnitskaya wrote, referring to the congressional committee in front of whom she was scheduled to testify.

While the new emails could back up Veselnitskaya's claim that she did not try to collude with the Trump campaign on behalf of the Russian government, it is unclear whether there are additional emails which provide greater context. Her emails also don't explain why Trump Jr., in an email made public earlier this year, responded to Gladstone about the prospect of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton by remarking, "If it’s what you say, I love it."

In addition, Veselnitskaya's story is not consistent with an account given by Akhmetshin himself. The Russian-American lobbyist told the Associated Press in July that Veselnitskaya brought a folder to the meeting that she claimed showed the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee. He also claimed that Veselnitskaya had told the Trump campaign at the meeting, "This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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