(That Dog Won't Hunt...(part 2))
New revelations also cast doubt on Trump Jr.’s portrayal of the meeting as a casual, small encounter. NBC News revealed that another individual came to the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-connected lawyer with whom Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort met. That person, whom the Associated Press identifies as Rinat Akhmetshin, is a former Soviet intelligence agent who now holds American citizenship. Akhmetshin told the AP that the meeting was not substantive, contrary to his expectations. Trump did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. He also initially claimed not to know who Veselnitskaya was or who she was working for, but his emails proved that claim false.
The businessman Bill Browder has accused Akhmetshin of working as a lobbyist for Russian causes without registering under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Browder did business in Russia; his lawyer was Sergei Magnitsky, who died in government custody. Magnitsky’s death inspired Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russians accused of human-rights abuses. Vladimir Putin, outraged, barred American adoptions of Russian children, the putative topic of the June 9 meeting. Two days after the meeting, Akhmetshin registered as a lobbyist for Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, which advocates for overturning the adoption ban, and which Veselnitskaya also represented. HRAGIF was registered by Denis Katsyv, the son of a Kremlin insider. Veselnitskaya represents both Katsyvs.
Akhmetshin said Trump Jr. lost interest in the meeting when Veselnitskaya couldn’t substantiate claims of Russian money being funneled to the Democratic Party. He mentioned to the AP that Veselnitskaya brought with her a folder of documents, though he said he did not know what they were, where they came from, or whether she left them. Both Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya have claimed that he did not receive any actual dirt of Clinton during the meeting.
Akhmetshin is not the only person in the room whom Trump Jr. did not initially disclose. NBC News reported, based on a statement from Trump Jr.’s attorney Alan Futerfas, that there was a sixth person in the room: Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Veselnitskaya, Akhmetshin, and the final mystery individual.
During an off-the-record conversation with reporters aboard Air Force One, parts of which were later placed on the record at the president’s behest, Trump indicated that the question about adoptions “maybe … was mentioned at some point,” but New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who was present, said that Trump’s comments were general, and that he was not indicating that he'd been told about the June 9 meeting.
Surprisingly, given his penchant for improvisation, the president’s story on the meeting—that he had no idea at the time, and was only informed in the last week—is the one account that has remained consistent throughout the twists and turns of the story of the June 9 meeting. Everything else has changed. Trump Jr.’s story has repeatedly been proven incomplete. Kushner’s explanation is challenging. Isikoff claims Trump’s lawyers knew of the meeting before. Given the pattern of the last few days, it is hard to see why anyone would assume that the public has received a full and honest reckoning of the June 9 meeting—or why anyone would give Trump Jr. and the White House the benefit of the doubt.
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