Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Russian lawyer questions why Mueller hasn't contacted her

Published:Monday | April 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Trump

MOSCOW (AP):

A Russian lawyer who discussed sanctions with Donald Trump Jr in New York during his father's 2016 campaign for the US presidency said Yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has not contacted her yet.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Natalia Veselnitskaya also detailed her recent meeting in Berlin with investigators from the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Like Mueller, the committee is investigating allegations of Russian interference in the US presidential election.

Veselnitskaya met in June 2016 with then-candidate Donald Trump's son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, after Trump Jr was told the Russian lawyer had potentially incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Mueller, a former FBI director, is leading a federal probe of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. He has filed charges against multiple former Trump campaign aides.

Veselnitskaya alleged in her interview with the AP in downtown Moscow that if Mueller's team never questions her, it would mean that it "is not working to discover the truth".

Veselnitskaya is a well-connected Moscow lawyer who has worked with a company called Prevezon Holdings Ltd. The company's owner is the son of a former Russian government official and a fierce advocate for rolling back US sanctions on Russia.

At the time of her 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, she was defending Prevezon against charges it had engaged in money laundering from a $230 million Russian tax fraud scheme.

Trump Jr and others in attendance have downplayed the meeting, saying nothing came of it. Trump has denied that he or his campaign coordinated with any Russian attempts to interfere in the election.

Senate committee eyes attorney

The Senate Intelligence Committee has expressed interest in determining whether Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya's appointment with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort was part of a Russian government effort to help US President Donald Trump's campaign for the White House. It was described that way in emails to Trump Jr. before it took place.

Several congressional committees are looking into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election and whether there were collusion by Trump's campaign. The House Intelligence Committee has finished its investigation and said it found no evidence of collusion or coordination with Russians.

The Senate Intelligence Committee approached Veselnitskaya earlier this year, but she refused to go the United States, saying she feared for her safety. The lawyer and the committee's investigators instead met in a Berlin hotel on March 26 and talked for three hours.

"That was essentially a monologue. They were not interrupting me," Veselnitskaya said. "They listened very carefully ... . Their questions were very sharp, pin-pointed."

The investigators mainly wanted to know about the Trump Tower meeting, she said. Veselnitskaya said she repeated her previous statements about it, insisting that she was not linked to the Russian government and merely wanted to discuss sanctions against Russia.

Veselnitskaya's said the Berlin interview also focused on information in memos compiled by a former British spy whose work was funded by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's campaign. The dossier contains numerous allegations of Russian ties to Trump, his associates and the Trump campaign.

Veselnitskaya dismissed the dossier as "absolute nonsense". She insisted that Glenn Simpson, whose firm Fusion GPS was hired to compile the dossier and who was questioned by the House Intelligence Committee in January, had been "framed".

The Senate committee has not sent her the minutes of the interview yet, Veselnitskaya said, because no one has figured out a safe way to get them to her.

Asked why she decided to meet with the US investigators in Berlin, Veselnitskaya said she felt compelled to tell her account after being into the heart of the Russia probe.

"I'm ready to explain things that may seem odd to you or maybe you have suspicions [about]," she said.