Two months before the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with officials of the Trump campaign, Natalia Veselnitskaya gave a "nearly identical" memo to Representative French Hill, according to the New York Times. In that meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and others, Veselnitskaya claimed the memo contained damaging information on both the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton.
Veselnitskaya said on many occasions that the information was obtained independently and refuted that she was working with the Kremlin. But the Times report said that the memo "closely followed" a document that Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika's office handed to an American congressman just two months prior, including "incorporating some paragraphs verbatim."
According to the report, the memo she brought to the Trump Tower meeting alleged that an American investment firm had purchased shares in a Russian company illegally, avoiding "tens of millions of dollars" of taxes in Russia. The American company, Ziff Brothers Investments, was owned by three billionaire brothers and two of them were donors to Democratic candidates, including Clinton.
In April 2016, Rep. Hill said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he "visited briefly" with Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin while in Moscow as part of a congressional delegation. That's when Veselnitskaya gave the "nearly identical" memo to Hill and met with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, according to the New York Times. Rohrabacher has said he doesn't recall the meeting.
"[Akhmetsin] suggested he had a way that we could better Russian-American relations," Hill told the newspaper, "and reopen the opportunity for Americans to adopt Russians, which had been stopped by President Putin."
Hill said the two also lobbied to have the Magnitsky Act renamed during the public discussion. The Magnitsky Act was passed by Congress in 2012 and named after Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. The law froze Western bank accounts of Russian officials as well as banned their entry into the United States.
In an interview with NPR, Seva Gunitsky, a Russian specialist at the University of Toronto, said that whenever somebody "on the Russian side says adoption ban, that's really code for the Magnitsky Act."
Hill said that the meeting with Akhmetsin and Veselnitskaya was "interesting" and he turned over information to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and embassy staff in Moscow to "assess whether it was of any value."
In a letter posted after the trip to Russia, Hill said the Russians have "done little to reassure" the American leadership that they could be "worthy partners of America."
The representative told the Dem-Gaz that he supports the Magnitsky Act and has pushed to increase pressure on Russia.
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