Russian attorney in Trump Tower meeting charged in obstruction of justice case

A Russian attorney who gained attention for her role in a June 2016 meeting with Trump campaign officials has been charged by the Justice Department with obstruction of justice.

According to a 19-page indictment, federal prosecutors in New York allege Natalia Veselnitskaya of attempting to thwart a DOJ investigation probing a money-laundering scheme.

DOJ officials contend Veselnitskaya, who represented Russian-owned Prevezon Holdings, filed a false declaration in the matter, which ultimately led to a settlement in the case.

Under an agreement with the U.S. attorney handling the case, Prevezon agreed to pay $5.9 million for an elaborate scheme in which the investment firm allegedly laundered money through real estate transactions in the U.S.

An attorney representing Prevezon, Veselnitskaya claimed to have furnished a report exonerating Russian officials’ role in the scam, but DOJ officials say Veselnitskaya collaborated with the Russians to draft an official response to the charges in the case.

“In truth and in fact, and as VESELNITSKAYA well knew but concealed from the Court, VESELNITSKAYA, a member of the defense team in the Prevezon Action, had participated in drafting those supposed independent investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor,” read the indictment.

A central figure in the now-notorious June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya, along with Trump campaign officials Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. met to discuss obtaining political intelligence on then-candidate Trump’s eventual foe, Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. has stated emphatically no information on Clinton was learned from the meeting where Veselnitskaya lobbied for the cancellation of Obama-era sanctions which penalized Russians responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant who blew the whistle on Prevezon for committing tax fraud and was later arrested and died in jail.

Following the unsealing of the indictment, Veselnitskaya, who is believed to be in Russia, said in a phone interview she will not return to the U.S. to face the charges, but is willing to speak to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

At the same time, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, demanded on Friday an explanation in full for the charges against Veselnitskaya.

The charges in the Jan. 8 case against Ms. Veselnitskaya are not connected to Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe.

 

[The Hill] [NBC News] [Yahoo News] [South China Morning Post] [Photo courtesy REUTERS/Kommersant/Yury Martyanov via U.S. News & World Report]