Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian connection has ties to former Kremlin spies

The Daily Beast reports: The Russian lawyer who peddled dirt on Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr. has ties to former Russian military and intelligence officials, a key congressional committee will hear in testimony next week.

William Browder, an American financier who has investigated Russian corruption for more than a decade, will brief the Senate Judiciary Committee at a hearing next week on the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya’s ties to the Russian government—including to former top members of the GRU and the FSB, two of the Kremlin’s main intelligence agencies. Those ties were spelled out in documents that Browder shared with the committee and provided to The Daily Beast this week.

Veselnitskaya may have had her own agenda in requesting a meeting with Trump,” according Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA officer who led the agency’s European directorate of operations. “But Russian intelligence practice is to co-opt such a person by arming them with secret intelligence information and tasking them to pass it to Trump’s people and get their reaction.”

“The key point is that essentially no Russian citizen or lawyer has compromising material on Hillary Clinton which has not been supplied to them from Russian intelligence,” Mowatt-Larssen wrote on Tuesday. “The simple assertion that she had such information is tantamount to declaring that Veselnitskaya was acting as agent of Russian government in this particular role.” [Continue reading…]

McClatchy reports: Veselnitskaya was in the United States at the time of the Trump Tower meeting to provide legal defense help to Denis Katsyv, accused in a New York court of helping launder through New York real estate some of the $230 million in Russian government money allegedly pilfered.

But prosecutors in that case knew that Veselnitskaya had allegedly threatened a lawyer working in Moscow in 2009 to expose the corruption, McClatchy has learned, warning his efforts would face consequences from the FSB. The FSB is Russia’s intelligence agency, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

The New York prosecution involved a Cyprus-based company called Prevezon Holdings and the case threatened to expose how Russian government officials had moved money out of their country and into safe havens — something also documented in the now-famous Panama Papers.

Efforts by some in Russia to expose the corruption made their lives extremely difficult. In 2009, the Kremlin attacked lawyers from a Russian-based nongovernmental organization called Spravedlinost, the English translation of which is Justice.

It was in that context that Veselnitskaya allegedly warned attorney Andrey Stolbunov, the leader of Spravedlinost, that the FSB would punish the rights group for its investigation — implying that he should work with the government.

Stolbunov fled Russia in 2013, saying in a 2014 interview with Radio Free Europe that he was being persecuted over his efforts to expose financial misdeeds. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: When American prosecutors accused a senior Russian official’s son of laundering $14 million by investing in Manhattan property and other assets, she was called to defend him. When Moscow regional officials battled Ikea over the Swedish retailer’s expansion, she took on their case.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year to discuss possible compromising material on the Democrats, has been widely depicted as a one-issue activist consumed with getting Congress to repeal sanctions against Russian businessmen.

But lawyers and others in Moscow’s legal community called her a trusted insider, one who could be counted on to argue and win important high-profile court cases that matter to the government and to one senior, well-connected official in particular. [Continue reading…]

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