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Second Russian's Role at Trump Jr. Meeting Raises New Questions

Image: Second Russian's Role at Trump Jr. Meeting Raises New Questions

Friday, 14 Jul 2017 04:25 PM

The meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had in June 2016 with a woman billed as a Russian government lawyer included at least one other person with long-standing ties to Russia.

Rinat Akhmetshin, who once served in a Soviet counterintelligence unit, told the Associated Press Friday that he was also there, along with a translator.

The revelation adds to the questions surrounding the now infamous meeting at Trump Tower and the extent of the contacts between Trump associates and Russians seeking to help the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Trump Jr. didn't disclose Akhmetshin's presence in several public statements on the meeting.

The meeting took place after Trump Jr. received e-mails suggesting Natalia Veselnitskaya was a Russian government lawyer who would offer incriminating information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. 

Akhmetshin told the Associated Press that Veselnitskaya turned over documents that she believed showed the flow of illicit money the Democratic National Committee. She suggested the Trump associates make them public. "This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money," Akhmetshin quoted her as saying. He added that he didn't know if the documents were from the Russian government.

He did not return messages seeking comment.

Trump Jr. has said the meeting produced no meaningful information. His attorney, Alan Futerfas, didn't respond to requests for comment, though on Tuesday he said that "the meeting lasted about 20-30 minutes, and nothing came of it." Veselnitskaya denied having Kremlin ties to NBC News and said she never had damaging information on Clinton to share.

Akhmetshin's presence — and Trump Jr.'s shifting story about the meeting — "adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting," said Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.

Akhmetshin registered as a lobbyist for the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative in June 2016, saying he worked to restore Americans' ability to adopt Russian children. President Vladimir Putin of Russia halted that in response to the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that imposed sanctions on Russian officials over suspected human rights abuses.

Trump Jr. said when The New York Times broke the news of the meeting with Veselnitskaya, who was known to have worked against the Magnitsky Act, that "we primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children."

In March, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley raised questions about whether Akhmetshin should have registered as a foreign agent for lobbying congressional staffers to repeal the Magnitsky Act.

He was involved in a screening of an anti-Magnitsky Act film — which Veselnitskaya also worked on — and told congressional staffers "it was a shame that this bill has made it so Russian orphans cannot be adopted by Americans," according to a March 31 letter by Grassley to a top Justice Department official.

Grassley said it was "particularly disturbing" that Akhmetshin and Fusion GPS, a political research firm, worked on the pro-Russian lobbying effort, given his "history and reputation" as a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who allegedly specializes in "subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda."

In November, 2015, Akhmetshin was accused in a lawsuit of hacking into a mining company's computer and stealing highly confidential information.

According to the suit by International Mineral Resources B.V, Akhmetshin stole sensitive and confidential materials from the company's computers, information his clients used to "inflict maximum damage" — including through a suit in the Netherlands that targeted a related firm.

He's described in the lawsuit as "a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer who moved to Washington D.C. to become a lobbyist. While working in Washington D.C., Akhmetshin developed a special expertise in running negative public relations campaigns."

Two months after suing, International Mining Resources withdrew its complaint.

Later Akhmetshin sought to recover costs associated with the litigation. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington awarded him $85,825 in a decision that described him as "an American citizen who provides strategic communications and consulting services to clients worldwide. He has governmental and private clients. He is also Director of the Washington office of International Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research."

IEI "works to expand democracy and the rule of law in Eurasia," she wrote. "Mr. Akhmetshin is fluent in Russian, has extensive experience in Eurasia, and has numerous contacts throughout that part of the world. He is considered an expert on the legal, political, social, cultural, and economic characteristics of many of the countries that formerly comprised the Soviet Union."

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The meeting that Donald Trump Jr. had in June 2016 with a woman billed as a Russian government lawyer included at least one other person with long-standing ties to Russia.
russian, role, donald trump jr., meeting, new, questions
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2017-25-14
Friday, 14 Jul 2017 04:25 PM
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