This is fine, right?
A new report from the New York Times states that three members of Trump’s inner circle met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower, two weeks after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for the presidency.
The meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr, and was also attended by Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and Russians, this episode at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. It is also the first time that his son Donald J. Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting.
Representatives of Donald J. Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner confirmed the meeting after The Times approached them with information about it. In a statement, Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program. The statement did not address whether the presidential campaign was discussed.
To be clear, Trump Jr. has no role, unofficial or otherwise, in the Trump administration. He and his brother, Eric Trump, were left control of the Trump Organization, while their dad and sister play president.
This particular meeting was discovered through the newly revised security clearance paperwork turned in by Kushner, who serves as senior adviser to his father-in-law.
Back in April, Kushner caught heat for not revealing meetings he’d previously had with the Russian ambassador, as well as the head of a state-run Russian bank on his security paperwork.
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.
He was found beaten to death.
Ms. Veselnitskaya is married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region, and her clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the F.B.I., according to a former senior law enforcement official.
Ok. Next question: Why was Trump Jr. interested in even a short meeting with this woman to talk about a closed down adoption program, and why did he need Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to be a part of it?
In his statement, Donald J. Trump Jr. said: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
He added: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
I’m troubled by that term, “primarily discussed.”
What did they secondarily discuss?
Also, as a busy executive, why did Trump Jr. agree to a meeting when he didn’t even know who he would be meeting with, and who was the acquaintance who asked him to have this blind meeting with a Kremlin-attached lawyer, two weeks after his father was nominated?
I can already hear the collective groan of Trump’s apologists. This seems like such a slight thread.
I’m more concerned with the multiple threads that have already been piled up. We’re just a couple of threads shy of a full mohair sweater, here.
The lawyer, Ms. Veselnitskaya, has a long history of working to push the Kremlin’s agenda, including her mission to discredit Mr. Magnitsky.
Russian President Putin, upon banning the adoption of Russian children in need of families, also blacklisted American citizens.
One of those citizens was Preet Bharara, the Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney who was leading the way in convicting Russian arms and drug dealers.
One of Ms. Veselnitskaya’s clients is Denis Katsyv, the Russian owner of a Cyprus-based investment company called Prevezon Holdings. He is the son of Petr Katsyv, the vice president of the state-owned Russian Railways and a former deputy governor of the Moscow region. In a civil forfeiture case prosecuted by Mr. Bharara’s office, the Justice Department alleged that Prevezon had helped launder money tied to a $230 million corruption scheme exposed by Mr. Magnitsky by parking it in New York real estate and bank accounts. As a result, the government froze $14 million of its assets. Prevezon recently settled the case for $6 million without admitting wrongdoing.
By all accounts, Veselnitskaya is a major player and not some random attorney from Russia.
News of this meeting is likely to catch the interest of those already looking into just how deep the involvement in the U.S. election the Russian government dipped.
It won’t calm many concerns. That’s for sure.