The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. had Kremlin talking points

A Russian lawyer's memo to Trump campaign members featured paragraphs that came from Russian sources

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 27, 2017 2:27PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

A new report indicates that, despite her initial claims to the contrary, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. tried to pass along information and talking points that she received through collaboration with the Russian government.

Natalia Veselnitskaya had discussed at least some of the allegations that she presented to Trump Jr. and two of the Trump campaign's top staffers, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, with Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, according to The New York Times. Perhaps as a result, Veselnitskaya brought a memo to the meeting which included verbatim paragraphs from a document that Chaika's office had given to an American congressman only two months earlier.

Veselnitskaya's memo claimed that an American firm known as Ziff Brothers Investments had evaded millions of dollars in Russian taxes after illegally purchasing shares in a Russian company. Because two of the three billionaire brothers investing in the financial company had donated to Hillary Clinton and other Democratic candidates, Veselnistskaya claimed that those Democrats had benefited from "stolen" funds.

Those claims have since become a staple of Russian propaganda efforts, including being the subject of two special reports on their state-run television network.

In addition to Vladimir Putin's obsessive hatred of Hillary Clinton, one factor that may have motivated the Russian government's targeting of the Ziff Brothers was the fact that they had invested in funds managed by American financier William F. Browder. Browder was a key player in pushing Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which sanctioned Russian officials who had committed human rights abuses.

While the details of Veselnitskaya's alleged relationship with the Russian government and how that shaped the memo she gave Trump Jr. have been unclear until now, there was always sound reason to suspect that she had not been acting solely of her own volition. When Rob Goldstone set up the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort, he wrote, "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."

Trump Jr. responded, "If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

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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Donald Trump Jr Natalia V. Veselnitskaya Russia Vladimir Putin