A Russian lawyer who met with officials from Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign in Trump Tower is being charged with obstruction of justice in a different case.
Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin, has been charged by federal prosecutors with attempting to hinder an investigation by the Justice Department into a civil fraud investigation, according to The New York Times. The investigation in question pertained to suspected money laundering that may have involved a Russian businessman and his investment firm.
While this case does not directly pertain to the allegations that Veselnitskaya attempted to collude with the Trump campaign to help the Republican candidate defeat his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, the federal indictment document alludes to her close ties to the Russian government. As the Times reported:
The indictment charges that after the Justice Department asked the Russian government to assist its investigation, the Russian government refused, responding with a letter that purported to exonerate Russian officials and the firm’s personnel.
The indictment says Ms. Veselnitskaya had secretly cooperated with a senior Russian prosecutor in drafting the Russian response, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan. “In doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding,” the indictment charged.
While it is unclear what Veselnitskaya said to Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, a report from 2017 suggests that at least one of the subjects broached was the Magnitsky law that imposes harsh sanctions against Russia for its human rights violations. The Kremlin-connected lawyer later recalled that Trump Jr. told her, "Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it."
She claimed that Trump Jr. had also requested proof that Hillary Clinton's campaign had received money which had avoided taxation, and she had admitted to lacking documentation to prove that. Yet despite the fact that little is known for sure about the Trump Tower meeting, it has been cited by Trump's critics as at least one more instance of proof of an improper relationship that existed between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Indeed, when the meeting was set up by British publicist Rob Goldstone, he had characterized it to Trump Jr. thusly:
"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."