Congressional investigators have dragged Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to grill them about a now-infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that is at the center of the Democrats’ dubious narrative that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with the Russian government to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.
But for whatever reasons, they have no interest in speaking with anyone from the Russian side, including Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the meeting. Veselnitskaya revealed as much during a 10-minute interview with the Russian news program Vesti, saying she sought the meeting as part of her efforts to help Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, a client of hers who was targeted with sanctions through the Magnitsky Act. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor the Trump campaign were discussed during the meeting, she said.
“It was a private meeting,” Ms. Veselnitskaya told the interviewer, according to an account Friday in the Moscow Times.
“I asked for help – help to get out a story I had come across in my professional capacity.”
The meeting “had nothing to do with [then-candidate Donald Trump’s] rivals or the presidential election,” she added. “That never happened. That’s not true.”
She expressed frustration that US investigators have not asked for her side of the story, telling her audience that the US Congress isn't interested in the truth.
Mr. Veselnitskaya also complained that she had not been invited to testify at any of the hearings of the multiple House and Senate committees looking into the Trump-Russia collusion charges.
“They don’t want the truth there at the moment. They need an enemy,” she said. “Some because they are looking to undermine Trump, some because they want to fuel the conflict with Russia.”
She also criticized Russian investment manager William Browder, an opponent of President Vladimir Putin. Browder. Browder led the lobbying effort to pass the Magnitsky Act, which pressed sanctions against several high-ranking Russian officials who US officials say had a hand in the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, who once worked closely with Browder at his firm, Moscow-based Hermitage Capital, died in custody after purportedly uncovering wide-ranging theft from the state committed by government officials. In response to the passage of the Magnitsky Act, Putin banned US adoptions of Russian children.
Veselnitskaya complained that Browder was invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. During the hearing, Browder provided details about collusion involving the Russian government. But the co-conspirator wasn’t Trump, but rather the Clinton campaign. In a segment of the testimony that was largely ignored by the mainstream press, Browder said that the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS had received funding from the Russians to compile a bogus dossier that suggested the Russians had embarrassing dirt on Trump. It was this dossier, which somehow found its way into the hands of the FBI, that triggered the collusion investigations before being widely discredited.
She was harshly critical of William Browder, the head of Moscow investment firm Hermitage Capital Management, who successfully lobbied for U.S. sanctions on Russia after a Hermitage lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in custody in Moscow in 2009 while facing charges for questionable tax evasion charges.
Mr. Browder told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing looking into the Russian collusion charges July 27 that Ms. Veselnitskaya and other Russians at the June 2016 meeting were there representing Russian President Vladimir Putin and were trying to set up links to the Trump campaign.
“The Russian government and Vladimir Putin were in effect coming to this meeting,” Mr. Browder said.
But Ms. Veslenitskaya told the Russian news show the meeting was “innocent” and that Mr. Browder was running a ‘financial scam.’”
Veselnitskaya’s meeting with Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort has become a focus for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators because of an email exchange between Trump Jr. and British publicist Rob Goldstone. In it, Goldstone promised Trump Jr. a meeting with a “Russian government lawyer” who could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
In an interview given shortly after reports of the meeting first surfaced, Veselnitskaya said she thought Trump Jr.’s intentions for taking the meeting involved finding evidence that the DNC was getting money from “inappropriate sources.”