ReutersNEW YORK (Reuters) — A Russian lawyer who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower under scrutiny in the U.S. special counsel’s probe of Russian election meddling was charged in a separate case that U.S. prosecutors said showed evidence of her ties to the Kremlin.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, who represented Russian defendants in a money laundering case settled in 2017, was charged with obstructing justice in that case for submitting a declaration that she falsely represented came from the Russian government independently, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Veselnitskaya “participated in drafting those supposed exculpatory investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor,” the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan said in a statement.
Veselnitskaya emerged as a critical figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign because of her meeting with Trump campaign aides in New York in the run-up to the election. Moscow denies interfering in the election to help Trump.
James Margolin, a spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney, said the charges were not based on a referral from Mueller’s office, which declined to comment on the indictment, and were unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting.
Veselnitskaya, who is believed to be in Russia, could not be immediately reached for comment. In testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017 Veselnitskaya said she spoke at the Trump Tower meeting about the Magnitsky Act, legislation to impose U.S. sanctions on Russia, and her allegations against Bill Browder, a hedge fund manager whom the United States regarded as a victim of the Russian money laundering case.
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, has said he agreed to the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and top campaign aide Paul Manafort also attended.
Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was about adoptions of Russian children in the United States, a program that was halted by Moscow in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on Russian officials called the Magnitsky Act. U.S. authorities said the officials were responsible for the death of Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.Speech