Drip, drip, drip: Your guide to Trump Jr.’ s Rus­sian meet­ing

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Mau­reen Groppe and Kevin John­son

The pres­i­dent’s oldest son, Don­ald Trump Jr., said Tues­day that he re­leased email cor­re­spon­dence about his June 2016 meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer to be “to­tally trans­par­ent.” Yet three days later, a se­ries of bomb­shell news re­ports re­vealed there was ac­tu­ally much more to the story. Trump Jr.’ s emails show he ac­tively sought dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton even af­ter he was told it would come from the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. As mul­ti­ple con­gres­sional com­mit­tees and a spe­cial coun­sel are in­ves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween Trump as­so­ci­ates and Rus­sians who sought to in­flu­ence the elec­tion by hack­ing Democrats close to Clin­ton, the pres­i­dent’s son is now ex­pected to tes­tify about his meet­ing with Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya in Trump Tower. Here are take­aways from Fri­day’s new rev­e­la­tions: A RUS­SIAN- AMER­I­CAN LOB­BY­IST WAS AT MEET­ING His name is Ri­nat Akhmetshin, and he con­firmed his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the meet­ing to mul­ti­ple news out­lets. Born in Rus­sia, the lob­by­ist served in the Soviet mil­i­tary and em­i­grated to the U. S., where he be­came a cit­i­zen in 2009. He is still a Rus­sian cit­i­zen, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ported. HE’S RE­PORTED TO HAVE TIES TO RUS­SIAN IN­TEL­LI­GENCE He served in the Soviet mil­i­tary in a unit that han­dled some coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence mat­ters.

Still, Akhmetshin told the As­so­ci­ated Press that any ef­forts to tie him to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are a “smear cam­paign.” The Krem­lin says it doesn’t know any­thing about him.

But Hermitage Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment chief Wil­liam Brow­der — the driv­ing force be­hind a 2012 law that im­posed U. S. sanc­tions on Rus­sian of­fi­cials in­volved in hu­man rights abuses and cor­rup­tion — de­scribed Akhmetshin as “a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence as­set who knows his way around Wash­ing­ton” in an in­ter­view with USA TO­DAY. Akhmetshin was also re­ferred to as a “for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer” in a 2015 law­suit by a Rus­sian min­ing com­pany that ac­cused him of hack­ing its com­puter sys­tem. The claims were with­drawn last year, the AP re­ported. HE MAY NOT HAVE FOL­LOWED LOB­BY­ING RULES Akhmetshin was “the pri­mary or­ga­nizer’’ of Rus­sia’s op­po­si­tion to the Mag­nit­sky Act, work­ing with Ve­sel­nit­skaya, ac­cord­ing to Brow­der. The 2012 U. S. law, named for Rus­sian at­tor­ney Sergei Mag­nit­sky, who was beaten to death in a Rus­sian prison three years ear­lier, barred Rus­sians sus­pected of hu­man rights abuses from en­try to the U. S. In re­tal­i­a­tion, the Krem­lin barred Amer­i­cans from adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren.

But Akhmetshin did not reg­is­ter with the Jus­tice De­part­ment as a for­eign agent. Peo­ple work­ing on be­half of for­eign in­ter­ests must reg­is­ter and make pe­ri­odic dis­clo­sures about their ac­tiv­i­ties and how much they’re be­ing paid. Brow­der filed a de­tailed com­plaint with the Jus­tice De­part­ment last year and Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley, R- Iowa, fol­lowed up with a March let­ter ask­ing what the agency had done in re­sponse.

Grass­ley called it “par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing’’ that Akhmetshin and the firm Fu­sion GPS “were work­ing on this pro- Rus­sia lob­by­ing ef­fort. In fact, it has been re­ported that he worked for the GRU [ Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency] and al­legedly spe­cial­izes in” dis­in­for­ma­tion ef­forts. RUS­SIAN LAWYER MAY HAVE PRO­VIDED DIRT ON CLIN­TON Trump Jr. has in­sisted that no mean­ing­ful in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton was pro­vided in the meet­ing, which lasted 20 to 30 min- utes, and that it was a waste of time. But Akhmetshin, in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view Fri­day with the Post, said that Ve­sel­nit­skaya had learned that an Amer­i­can hedge fund, per­haps linked to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, was in vi­o­la­tion of Rus­sian tax law. Akhmetshin told the AP that Ve­sel­nit­skaya brought doc­u­ments she said would show the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee re­ceived il­licit funds. When Ve­sel­nit­skaya told Trump Jr. the Trump cam­paign would need to do some of its own re­search, the pres­i­dent’s son lost in­ter­est, Akhmetshin told the AP. POS­SI­BLE VI­O­LA­TION OF CAM­PAIGN LAW Paul Ryan, a top lawyer with the watchdog group Com­mon Cause, ar­gued Fri­day that any re­search Ve­sel­nit­skaya left be­hind with Trump Jr. about the DNC would amount to an il­le­gal con­tri­bu­tion. His group and two oth­ers have filed com­plaints with the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. OTH­ERS AT­TENDED THAT TRUMP TOWER MEET­ING Trump Jr. had not dis­closed Akhmetshin’s pres­ence at the meet­ing. We al­ready knew that the pres­i­dent’s son in­vited other mem­bers of the cam­paign — chair­man Paul Manafort and Trump son- in- law Jared Kush­ner — so that’s three peo­ple. Ve­sel­nit­skaya makes four and en­ter­tain­ment pub­li­cist Rob Gold­stone, who helped ar­range the meet­ing, makes five. In ad­di­tion to Akhmetshin, par­tic­i­pants also re­port­edly in­clude a trans­la­tor and, ac­cord­ing to CNN, an asyet- un­named rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Rus­sian fam­ily who had asked Gold­stone to set up the meet­ing.


Lob­by­ist Ri­nat Akhmetshin, above, is at the cen­ter of a meet­ing the Rus­sians held with Don­ald Trump Jr., top, and oth­ers at Trump Tower.

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