Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case

Posted at 12:13 PM, Jan 08, 2019

The Russian lawyer who attended a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with members of the Trump campaign was charged by federal prosecutors in New York with obstruction of justice in a money-laundering case, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday that highlighted her ties to the Russian government.

Natalya Veselnitskaya, who gained prominence as a result of a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other members of the Trump campaign after he had been promised damaging intelligence on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was indicted by the Manhattan US Attorney's office.

As that case proceeded, Veselnitskaya, a member of the defense team in that matter, allegedly gave a false declaration to the federal court in New York about the Russian government's investigative findings in that case, concealing from the court that she "had participated in drafting those supposed independent investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor," according to the indictment.

Veselnitskaya is not in the US and it's unlikely that she'll ever see court or be taken into custody unless she leaves Russia. She told CNN Tuesday that she would "defend her professional honor" in the case and declined to comment further about the matter, saying she just learned of the news.

Emails released by Trump Jr. show that he agreed to the meeting after being told the "crown prosecutor of Russia" wanted to give the Trump campaign incriminating information about Clinton. Instead, Trump Jr. later said, Veselnitskaya focused on the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that sanctions Russians accused of violating human rights.

Veselnitskaya has said in interviews that she has a working relationship with Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and that they exchanged information during her lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act. She has denied that she has ever worked for the Russian government, and a Kremlin spokesman has said the notion was "absurd."

It's unclear if there was any response from the Trump team to the request from Veselnitskaya concerning the Magnitsky Act. The Trump administration has not moved to roll back the Russian sanctions, and, in fact, new sanctions against Russia have been enacted.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the Trump Tower meeting as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The special counsel's office declined to comment on whether it contributed to the Veselnitskaya investigation or referred it to the US Attorney's office. The indictment of Veselnitskaya appears to stem directly from the New York case concerning the Cyprus-based investment firm Prevezon Holdings Ltd. and its Russian owner, Denis Katsyv.

Veselnitskaya attended proceedings in the US for the case, including a hearing in Manhattan on the same day of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

This story is breaking and will be updated.