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Lawmakers Lobbied By Russian Firm Tied to Trump Jr. Meeting

Image: Lawmakers Lobbied By Russian Firm Tied to Trump Jr. Meeting
Rep. Gregory Meeks (AP)

By    |   Friday, 14 Jul 2017 06:33 PM

The Russian lobbying effort at the center of the controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr. also lobbied U.S. lawmakers on behalf of adoption issues as a result of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, The Hill reported Friday.

The effort was also directly tied to three Moscow businessmen.

According to lobbying registration records and interviews, the campaign was led by Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and his lobbying partner Robert Arakelian, who represented The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation.

The records detailed their work against the Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russia for human rights abuses by punishing Russian officials from entering the U.S. or using the American banking system.

Russian President Vladimir Putin despised the law, named after Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered a money-laundering scheme and died in custody. Since the law was enacted, Russia has called a halt to the adoption of Russian babies by Americans.

At least $50,000 was spent on the lobbying efforts, according to the records, and three Russian businessmen, Denis Katsyv, Mikhail Ponomarev and Albert Nasibulin of Moscow, had an interest in the outcome of the lobbying, which ultimately failed.

"Mikhail Ponomarev, Albert Nasibulin and Denis Katsyv support policies that would reinstate the ability for U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children," several of the lobbying reports stated, although none of the businessmen contributed money or had a financial interest in the group itself.

Katsyv owned Prevezon Group, based in Cyprus, which the U.S. Justice Department pursued in a multimillion dollar civil asset forfeiture proceeding that connected to the Magnitsky case.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in 2016, received a special waiver the year before to come to the U.S. to represent Prevezon.

The lobbying effort was "extremely expensive, well-resourced and aggressive," according to a congressional aide who was familiar with their efforts to sway lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the Magnitsky case.

"It didn't succeed, but it was far more sophisticated and tenacious than their prior efforts," the source said.

Congressmen and aides said it wasn't unusual to be approached by Akhmetshin and his associates.

"They were stalking the halls to find folks," one staffer said. "They would hang around the hallways for hours."

Another staffer called their efforts "desperate," and said if they couldn't pin a congressman down, they would "walk into people's offices unannounced or tag folks in the hallway or around the floor."

The lobbying targeted Democrats and Republicans, including Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Rep. French Hill, R-Ark. and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., who had all voted in favor of the Magnitsky Act.

American officials were also listed among the supporters of The Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation. Former Democratic Congressman Ron Dellums of California and former Export-Import Bank General Counsel Howard Schweitzer registered to back the Russian effort, whose firms benefitted financially from their lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act.

Akhmetshin admitted to the Associated Presss on Friday he was also present at the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump, Jr., former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner in 2016 at Trump Tower.

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The Russian lobbying effort at the center of the controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr. also lobbied U.S. lawmakers on behalf of adoption issues as a result of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, The Hill reported Friday.
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Friday, 14 Jul 2017 06:33 PM
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