Natalia Veselnitskaya — the Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in June 2016 after offering them damaging information about Hillary Clinton — has admitted to passing information to a senior Kremlin official, directly contradicting her past claims of independence.
Veselnitskaya, who initially came under scrutiny for meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and others at Trump Tower, admitted to being an “informant” for Russian prosecutor general Yuri Chaika during an interview with NBC, which was viewed by the New York Times and is scheduled to air Friday.
“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”
A series of Veselnitskaya’s personal emails, obtained by the anti-Putin opposition-research firm Dossier, further reveals that she worked with Chaika’s office to craft the Russian government’s response to Department of Justice tax-fraud charges levied against the Russian holding firm Prevezon, which she represented at the time. The charges were brought after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was later beaten to death in a Russian prison, discovered the company was committing tax fraud. Following Magnitsky’s death, the Department of Justice sanctioned corrupt Russian officials under legislation bearing his name.
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which is reportedly one of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s primary focuses in investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, came about after Veselnitskaya told the campaign through a third party that she had incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. After reports of the meeting emerged, both the Trump campaign and Veselnitskaya stressed that she was a private citizen who had wanted to discuss the Russian ban on American adoptions.
“I operate independently of any governmental bodies,” Veselnitskaya wrote in a November statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives and his institutions other than those related to my professional functions as a lawyer.”
Veselnitskaya new admission that she was, in fact, working with Chaika’s office as a proxy for the Russian government “raises serious questions about obstruction of justice and false statements,” Jaimie Nawaday, a former assistant United States attorney in Manhattan who was a prosecutor on the case, told the Times.