The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials during the 2016 election admitted Friday she has worked as an “informant” for the Kremlin.
Natalia Veselnitskaya has previously maintained she is nothing more than a private attorney with no formal connection to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
But newly unearthed emails show she worked closely with the Kremlin’s chief legal office to derail a Justice Department civil fraud case against a well-connected Russian firm.
“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” Veselnitskaya said in an interview with NBC correspondent Richard Engel that aired Friday. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”
Veselnitskaya confirmed the veracity of her emails, which were obtained and released by Dossier, a Putin-skeptic organization founded by exiled Russian oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“Many things included here are from my documents, my personal documents,” Veselnitskaya said.
She told the Russian news agency Interfax this week that her email account was hacked earlier this year.
Veselnitskaya disclosed that she was a “source of information” for Russian prosecutor general Yuri Chaika, a close ally of Putin.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation has reportedly focused in on the June 2016 Manhattan meeting and alternating narratives related to the sit down.
The meeting, which included President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was set up by Trump Jr. after he was told he would be provided damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign, according to emails released by Trump Jr.
Trump Jr. has said the meeting was unproductive and that instead of providing dirt on Clinton, Veselnitskaya tried to lobby the Trump campaign on repealing 2012 sanctions.
The emails show Veselnitskaya worked closely with a top official in Russia’s prosecutor-general’s Office to fend off a U.S. fraud case against one of her clients in 2014.
The Dossier organization said Friday it had been sent a series of emails showing Veselnitskaya set out strategies for the Kremlin’s response to a U.S. request for assistance in a money-laundering case involving her client.
Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison on fraud and tax-evasion convictions.
Veselnitskaya’s stunning admission directly counters testimony she submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, in which she claimed no connection to the Kremlin.
“I operate independently of any governmental bodies,” she wrote in November. “I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives and his institutions other than those related to my professional functions as a lawyer.”
The relationship between Veselnitskaya and Chaika’s office also backs up a June 2016 email to Trump Jr. that claimed the “crown prosecutor of Russia” wanted to get information about Clinton to Trump’s campaign.
The email was sent by former campaign surrogate and British tabloid journalist Rob Goldstone, explaining the use of the English term for a prosecutor general.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russia tried to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.
The President has reluctantly agreed with their assessment, but has called any talk of coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin “nonsense.”
Mueller’s probe, which has led to the indictments of four members of Trump’s inner circle, including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, has also looked at the President’s role in a deliberately misleading statement issued about the meeting.
Trump Jr. initially claimed the sit-down in his father’s Fifth Ave. tower was about Russian adoptions, before tweeting out emails that showed he was aware Russians were offering dirt on Clinton.
Veselnitskaya said in an interview with NBC last year that she received a phone call and was asked whether she had information on the Clinton campaign’s finances: “I never knew who else would be attending the meeting, all I knew was that Donald Trump Jr. wanted to meet with me.”
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