Ex-Soviet Intelligence Officer, Now Lobbyist, Confirms Being At Trump Jr. Meeting
RFE/RL July 14, 2017
The Russian lawyer who met with the eldest son of U.S. President Donald Trump and other officials of his presidential campaign in June 2016 was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist who is a former Soviet counterintelligence officer, according to multiple U.S. media reports.
The lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, on July 14 confirmed to the Associated Press that he had been at the meeting. He told the news agency he had once served in a Soviet military unit that was part of counterintelligence but that he was never formally trained as a spy.
NBC reported on July 13 that the lobbyist, whom the network did not name at the time, accompanied Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya to the meeting with Donald Trump Jr.; President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The NBC report described the man as a "Russian-born American lobbyist [who] served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship."
Akhmetshin was a known associate of Veselnitskaya's in a multifaceted lobbying and public-relations effort in the United States in mid-2016 against the Magnitsky Act, legislation that imposes sanctions on human rights abusers.
The Financial Times reported on July 10 that Veselnitskaya had hired Akhmetshin during this period.
E-mail, phone, and text queries by RFE/RL to contacts previously used by Akhmetshin went unanswered on July 14.
Contacted by RFE/RL, a representative for Veselnitskaya in Russia said on July 14 she was too "busy" to comment on the Akhmetshin reports.
Akhmetshin has said previously that he served in Soviet counterintelligence, although he denied in an interview with RFE/RL last year that he had served in Soviet military intelligence.
In April, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent the Department of Homeland Security an information request as part of a probe into possible illegal lobbying by Akhmetshin, saying he was suspected of conducting "subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda."
NBC reported that Alan Futerfas, Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer, said his client had met with the former counterintelligence officer in question, without using his name. Futerfas said he himself had spoken to "that individual," who denied he was working for the Russian government.
"I have absolutely no concerns about what was said in that meeting," Futerfas said.
Representatives of Kushner and Manafort refused to comment for the NBC report.
In an earlier interview with NBC, Veselnitskaya said she was accompanied to the meeting by at least one other person whom she declined to identify.
On July 11, Donald Trump Jr. released e-mails that showed he had accepted the meeting after being told Veselnitskaya had damaging information about Democratic Party presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that was purportedly provided by the Russian government.
Akhmetshin told AP that Veselnitskaya gave the Trump associates at the meeting information on what she said were funds being illegally funneled to the Democratic National Committee and suggested the information could help the Trump campaign.
"This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money," Akhmetshin recalled the lawyer as saying.
President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have said there was nothing improper about the meeting.
With reporting by NBC and The Financial Times
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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