Following President Trump’s much-disputed discussion with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit, more sketchy fodder has dropped for the timeline of events surrounding Russian interference in the U.S. election. Specifically, the New York Times has published a report about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., members of the Trump campaign, and a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
Both Trump son-in-law (and current senior advisor) Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort were in attendance at this June 2016 meeting, which serves to bolster the list of previously undisclosed meetings between the campaign and Russians who are linked to the Kremlin. However, Kushner and Trump Jr. reps have told the NY Times that the meeting was all about an “adoption program,” and the Trump presidential bid was not on the table. Here’s more about the Russian attorney in attendance:
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.
Veselnitskaya, who has previously come under the FBI’s radar, happens to be married to a minister of the Russian government. However, Trump Jr. played dumb in a statement (to the NY Times) by pretending not to know who would be at this meeting (which was set up by some mystery person):
“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
The NY Times alludes to Kushner’s previous failure to disclose meetings with Russians (this would count as one) while applying for top-security clearance. Trump Jr., who didn’t become part of his father’s administration, was not required to make such disclosures, but this meeting with Veselnitskaya does not present the best look when there are multiple ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.
Meanwhile, funnyman Michael Ian Black isn’t buying any part of the explanation for this meeting. As such, he mocked the heck out of “well-known adoption activist” Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner (“basically the Jewish Angelina Jolie”) in a lengthy tweetstorm.