Because of left-wing outrage and media obsession, the nation has focused on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to influence the American election. In the hype and hysteria, we have been distracted from an obvious issue. If, as the Obama Administration claimed, the Russians merely wanted to undermine American trust in the democratic process, would not they work both sides against each other? It is looking more and more like that may be the case.
To understand the tangled details around Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, we first have to examine the Magnitsky Act. That act was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who exposed massive tax fraud in Russia at the government level. For that exposure, the Russian government arrested Magnitsky, tortured him, and left him to die in jail. The international outrage was overwhelming and a bipartisan group in Congress passed the Magnitsky Act.
The legislation allowed, in part, the Department of Justice to seize American assets of Russian oligarchs exposed by Magnitsky. The Russian company Prevezon Holdings had its assets seized. It set about hiring lawyers, political strategists, and others to get is money back. Prevezon made three very interesting hires.
Prevezon hired Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who subsequently met with Donald Trump, Jr. Prevezon also hired Rinat Akhmetshin, described by Senator Chuck Grassley, R., IA, as a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who specialized in disinformation and propaganda campaigns. Akhmetshin also retained Veselnitskaya as lawyer for a third party group that claims to be a Human Rights group. Prevezon and Akhmetshin also worked with a Democrat opposition research group called Fusion GPS.
Here is where the web starts to tangle. According to Senator Grassley, who wants Fusion GPS’s executives to testify to Congress, “Fusion GPS was apparently simultaneously working on the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between Trump presidential campaign associates and Russia” while also working with Prevezon to overturn the Magnitsky Act.
Suddenly it seems more than a coincidence that Prevezon’s lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has a meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. at the time Fusion GPS is putting together a dossier claiming the Trump campaign had been meeting with Russians. But it gets even more tangled than that.
Natalia Veselnitskaya’s visa for entry into the United States had expired by 2016. She could not enter the country and a United States Attorney denied her “temporary parole” to enter the country. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration overruled the United States Attorney and allowed Ms. Veselnitskaya into the United States on an expired visa to meet with Donald Trump, Jr.
My understanding is there are generally only two grounds for such permission to be given. First, a lawyer like Ms. Veselnitskaya could show she was the only legal agent of a company currently in court. That did not apply here because Prevezon also retained the American law firm Baker Hostetler, which also has ties to Fusion GPS. The second way is to have a collaborative relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Senator Grassley, in a press release outlining his potential questions to former FBI Director James Comey, notes that the FBI planned “to hire former British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, even though the FBI was aware that he was being paid by Democrat political operatives to conduct opposition research on Trump.” Steele, you see, helped Fusion GPS compile the dossier on Donald Trump.
It could just be a coincidence that the Obama Administration let Natalia Veselnitskaya enter the United States to meet with Donald Trump, Jr. It could also be a coincidence that her client, Prevezon, hired Fusion GPS to help Russia at the same time Fusion GPS was compiling a dossier on Donald Trump claiming Trump was working with the Russians. And it could be a coincidence that the FBI considered hiring the man who helped Fusion GPS compile that dossier.
It could all be a coincidence, or it could start to paint a new picture. The Russians could have been masterfully playing both sides so that whoever won, Russia came out on top. Mrs. Clinton, after all, claims she reset the relationship with Russia.
Erick Erickson is editor-in-chief
of redState.com, a right-of-center blog on Capitol Hill.