The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 was initially cleared into the United States by the Obama Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances,” according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews obtained by The Hill.
President Donald Trump’s eldest son has come under fire this week after it was revealed he agreed during the 2016 campaign to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who he believed had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia,” information the Russian lawyer was willing to give as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
But documents obtained by The Hill reveal that it was the Obama Justice Department who allowed Veselnitskaya to enter the country without a visa in the first place.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in New York confirmed to The Hill Wednesday that it let Veselnitskaya into the U.S. on a grant of immigration parole from October 2015 to early January 2016, despite the fact she was turned down for a visa to enter the country lawfully.
Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch granted Veselnitskaya a rare grant of parole immigration for the limited purpose of defending her client, Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, whose business was defending itself against a Justice Department asset forfeiture case in a New York City federal court.
“In October the government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni explained to the judge during a Jan. 6, 2016, hearing.
“That’s a discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, we did that so that Mr. Katsyv could testify. And we made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist,” Monteleoni said.
However, the Justice Department and State Department offered no explanation as to how Veselnitskaya was allowed to stay in the U.S. until June to even have the opportunity to meet with Trump Jr. in person at Trump Tower.
During her time in the U.S., Veselnitskaya was engaged in a pro-Russian lobbying campaign to challenge the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. human rights law which Russian President Vladimir Putin has strived to reverse.
The 2012 Magnisky Act imposed financial and other sanctions on Russia in response to the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who in 2008 uncovered a $230 million tax fraud scheme that involved high-level Kremlin officials and key Putin allies.
After uncovering the scheme, Magnitsky was jailed by the same Russian officials he testified against during criminal proceedings to punish suspects involved in the scheme.
Magnitsky died in Russian custody after being held for 358 days. The Russian government said Magnitsky died of a heart attack, but an independent human-rights commission found he died due to injuries sustained from his illegal arrest and beatings.
The Russian government altered its adoption policy to prohibit American families from adopting Russian children in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act’s signing in 2012.
During her time in the U.S., Veselnitskaya attended an event at the Newseum in Washington D.C., where Russian supporters showed a movie that challenged the merits of the Magnitsky Act.
She also attended a dinner with the Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., the chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing Russia policy, and roughly 20 other guests.
Rohrabacher recounted the dinner during an interview with The Hill on Wednesday.
“There was a dinner at the Capitol Hill Club here with about 20 people. I think I was the only congressman there. They were talking about the Magnitsky case. But that wasn’t just the topic. There was a lot of other things going on. So I think she was there, but I don’t remember any type of conversation with her between us. But I understand she was at the table.”
Trump Jr. told The New York Times in a statement that it was clear from the get-go that his meeting with Veselnitskaya was a dud. She did not have any incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, and instead focused the conversation on the issue of Russian adoption policy.
“It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information,” Trump Jr. said in the statement, adding that the adoption policy “was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”
Just five days after meeting Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya appeared in the front row of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russian policy in June 2016, according to video footage of the hearing.
Veselnitskaya acknowledged during an interview with NBC News that her meetings with members of Congress, Trump Jr. and other American political figures was part of an effort to shine a light on “the real circumstances behind the Magnitsky Act.”
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.