Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has disclosed that President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., signaled to her during their meeting in June 2016 that the Trump administration would consider repealing the Magnitsky Act. Trump Jr. allegedly met with Veselnitskaya on the promise that she could provide compromising information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
On Nov. 6, Veselnitskaya stated during an interview with Bloomberg that Trump Jr. had promised her that the Trump administration would revisit the Magnitsky Act, a package of sanctions against Russians accused of human rights abuses, if they won the 2016 presidential election.
Veselnitskaya asserted that Trump Jr. told her: "Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it'll take a long time to get to the bottom of it."
The Magnitsky Act, passed in 2012, was named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who controversially died in a Moscow prison after uncovering a massive financial fraud scheme by Russian officials. The legislation froze the assets of the Russian officials believed to be responsible for Magnitsky's incarceration and death. Russian President Vladimir Putin banned Americans from adopting Russian orphans in response to the law's passage.
U.S.-born businessman Bill Browder, a personal friend of Magnitsky, who had lobbied for the sanctions, asserted that Putin was determined to have the law repealed, according to The Atlantic.
On July 25, Browder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Putin felt threatened by the Magnitsky Act because "it destroys the promise of impunity he's given to all of his corrupt officials."
Veselnitskaya, a lawyer who has lobbied for the Magnitsky Act's repeal, drew Trump Jr.'s attention by offering evidence that the Ziff brothers, who are prominent Democratic donors, had allegedly evaded paying taxes for $1 billion in Russian investments.
In her latest interview, Veselnitskaya stated that she shared a memo detailing the Ziff brothers' alleged tax evasion to publicist Robert Goldstone, who arranged her meeting with Trump Jr.
Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. met at Trump Tower in June 2016. The Russian lawyer recalled that Trump Jr. asked her, "This money the Ziffs got from Russia, do you have any financial documents showing that this money went to Clinton's campaign?"
The Russian lawyer asserted that she did not have any evidence linking the Ziff brothers' alleged Russian investments to the Clinton campaign, and "The meeting was a failure; none of us understood what the point of it had been."
Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya as part of the federal probe into whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials to subvert the 2016 presidential election.
Veselnitskaya has maintained that she met with Trump Jr. in a private capacity, but the memo detailing information about the Ziff brothers that she brought to the meeting closely resembled a document that she had provided Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Y. Chaika in April 2016.
Senior fellow Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council told The New York Times that the nearly identical memos signaled that Veselnitskaya was working on behalf of the Russian government when she met with Trump Jr. and that her efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act "were coordinated from the very top."
Browder voiced skepticism about Veselnitskaya's assertion that Trump Jr. hinted to her that a Trump administration would repeal the Magnitsky Act.
"She's not a credible person," Browder told CNN. "She has a history of consistently lying."