In another twist in Donald Trump, Jr.’s story about his Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, it’s been disclosed that there were several other previously unmentioned participants in the meeting, including prominent Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin. Akhmetshin is also a former Soviet counterintelligence officer.
“Only smoke and no fire? That’s clearly been put to rest,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “This clearly brings the investigation to a new level.”
Akhmetshin, a naturalized U.S. citizen who has lived in Washington, D.C. for nearly 25 years, was drafted into the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988, before moving to the U.S. in the early 1990’s.
During his service in the Soviet military, his unit was part of counterintelligence, but Akhmetshin denies being trained in spy tradecraft.
He claims Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya invited him last minute to attend the meeting with her at Trump Tower. In addition to Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Veselnitskaya, and Akhmetshin, he also claims there was a Russian interpreter present at the meeting. Akhmetshin said there were others present at the meeting, but he did not recognize them.
British music publicist Rob Goldston set up and attended the meeting.
Akhmetshin confirmed Donald Trump, Jr.’s allegation that attorney Veselnitskaya claimed to have information tying Russian funding to the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and supporting Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign,” Akhmetshin told Associated Press.
The Russian government denied any knowledge of the meeting or involvement in it.
While there’s been speculation from those on the left over whether or not Donald Trump Jr. broke the law, a recent blog post from a Yale law professor Andy Grewal sheds light on the issue.
Most of FECA’s [Federal Election Campaign Act] prohibitions, including those related to the solicitation of contributions/donations from foreign nationals, create criminal consequences only when a person “knowingly and willfully” commits a violation of the statute…
This heightened mens rea standard means that a person must know that he is breaking the law to trigger a criminal prosecution, and must know about the relevant statute duty: The “words [‘knowingly and willingly’] of specific criminal intent require proof that the offender was aware of what the law required, and that he or she violated that law notwithstanding that knowledge
However, such analysis may still be premature, as stories are still conflicting on the exact nature of the meeting, and exactly what was discussed.
- For more on the story, see Associated Press
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