Grand jury hears from lob­by­ist in Trump Tower chat

Truro Daily News - - WORLD -

A grand jury used by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller has heard se­cret tes­ti­mony from a Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist who at­tended a June 2016 meet­ing with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son, The As­so­ci­ated Press has learned.

A per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter con­firmed to the AP that Ri­nat Akhmetshin had ap­peared be­fore Mueller’s grand jury in re­cent weeks. The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the se­cret pro­ceed­ings.

The rev­e­la­tion is the clear­est in­di­ca­tion yet that Mueller and his team of in­ves­ti­ga­tors view the meet­ing, which came weeks af­ter Trump had se­cured the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, as a rel­e­vant in­quiry point in their broader probe into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

The meet­ing in­cluded Don­ald Trump Jr.; the pres­i­dent’s sonin-law, Jared Kush­ner; and his for­mer cam­paign chair­man, Paul Manafort. Emails re­leased by Trump Jr. show he took the meet­ing ex­pect­ing that he would be re­ceiv­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton as part of what was de­scribed to him as a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to aid the Trump cam­paign.

The Fi­nan­cial Times first re­ported Akhmetshin’s grand jury ap­pear­ance. Reached by the AP, Akhmetshin de­clined com­ment. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, also de­clined com­ment.

The con­fir­ma­tion of Akhmetshin’s grand jury tes­ti­mony comes af­ter he spoke at length about his in­volve­ment in the Trump Tower meet­ing in an in­ter­view with the AP last month.

Akhmetshin, a for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer who served in a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence unit, is also a well-known Washington lob­by­ist. He has been rep­re­sent­ing Rus­sian in­ter­ests try­ing to un­der­mine the story of lawyer Sergei Mag­nit­sky, who died in a Rus­sian prison and is the name­sake of a U.S. sanc­tions law.

Akhmetshin has been re­ported to have ties to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence but he has de­nied that, call­ing the al­le­ga­tions a “smear cam­paign.”

Mueller and his team first sig­nalled their in­ter­est in the Trump Tower gath­er­ing last month by con­tact­ing an at­tor­ney for at least some of the Rus­sians who at­tended.

The meet­ing at is­sue was dis­closed ear­lier this year to Congress and first re­vealed by The New York Times.

Trump Jr. has of­fered evolv­ing ex­pla­na­tions for the cir­cum­stances of the meet­ing, ini­tially say­ing that the pur­pose was to dis­cuss adop­tion and later ac­knowl­edg­ing that he an­tic­i­pated re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion that he thought could be dam­ag­ing to Clin­ton.

In ad­di­tion to Akhmetshin, other at­ten­dees at the meet­ing in­cluded Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, music pub­li­cist Rob Gold­stone — who helped ar­range the gath­er­ing — and a trans­la­tor. Ike Kave­ladze, who also goes by the name Irakly Kave­ladze, also at­tended the meet­ing. Kave­ladze works for a Rus­sian de­vel­oper who part­nered with Trump on the 2013 Miss Uni­verse pageant in Moscow.

An email ex­change posted to Twit­ter by Trump Jr. showed him con­vers­ing with Gold­stone, who wanted him to meet with some­one he de­scribed as a “Rus­sian gov­ern­ment at­tor­ney,” who sup­pos­edly had dirt on Clin­ton as “part of Rus­sia and its gov­ern­ment’s sup­port for Mr. Trump.”

“If it’s what you say I love it es­pe­cially later in the sum­mer,” Trump Jr. wrote in one email re­sponse.

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