On Wednesday, The Hill reported that it was Obama’s Justice Department that initially let Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya into the United States without a visa. According to the report, she was allowed into the country by the Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she engaged in a lobbying campaign last year that eventually ensnared the president’s eldest son, members of Congress, journalists and State Department officials.
According to The Hill:
This revelation means it was the Obama Justice Department that enabled the newest and most intriguing figure in the Russia-Trump investigation to enter the country without a visa.
Later, a series of events between an intermediary for the attorney and the Trump campaign ultimately led to the controversy surrounding the president’s eldest son.
Just five days after meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Moscow attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya showed up in Washington in the front row of a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia policy, video footage of the hearing shows.
That video can be seen below:
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The Hill report continued:
She also engaged in a pro-Russia lobbying campaign and attended an event at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. where Russian supporters showed a movie that challenged the underpinnings of the U.S. human rights law known as the Magnitysky Act, which Russian leader Vladimir Putin has reviled and tried to reverse.
The Magnitsky Act imposed financial and other sanctions on Russia for alleged human rights violations connected to the death of a Russian lawyer who claimed to uncover fraud during Putin’s reign. Russia retaliated after the law was passed in 2012 by suspending Americans’ ability to adopt Russian children.
At least five congressional staffers and State Department officials attended that movie showing, according to a Foreign Agent Registration Act complaint filed with the Justice Department about Veselnitskaya’s efforts.
Even the left-wing Daily Beast wondered how she got into the country:
She (Natalia) then asked federal prosecutors for permission to enter the U.S. to work on behalf of a client in a Manhattan. Prosecutors granted Veselnitskaya temporary “immigration parole” in late 2015 but it expired in early 2016, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York told The Daily Beast.
Veselnitskaya’s parole was not renewed, the U.S. Attorney’s Office added.
That raises the question of how Veselnitskaya was able to enter the U.S. in June 2016 when she visited Trump Tower.
The State Department would not confirm or deny whether Veselnitskaya applied again for a visa in 2016, let alone if a visa was granted. A spokesperson told The Daily Beast the State Department could not comment due to privacy considerations. Veselnitskaya also did not respond to requests for comment.
In January 2016, Veselnitskaya filed a declaration to extend her parole past that month. The U.S. Attorney’s Office objected.
But there are still questions about how she was allowed into the country at the time of the meeting. The Hill explained:
The U.S. Attorney’s office in New York confirmed Wednesday to The Hill that it let Veselnitskaya into the country on a grant of immigration parole from October 2015 to early January 2016.
Moreover, it seems she wasn’t a very effective lobbyist, as the Hill report noted:
Sources close to the lobbying effort to rename the Magnisky Act, conducted over the summer of 2016, said it fizzled after only a month or two. They described Veselnitskaya, who does not speak English, as a mysterious and shadowy figure. They said they were confused as to whether she had an official role in the lobbying campaign, although she was present for several meetings.
The sources also described their interactions with Veselnitskaya in the same way that Trump Jr. did. They claimed not to know who she worked for or what her motives were.
“Natalia didn’t speak a word of English,” said one source. “Don’t let anyone tell you this was a sophisticated lobbying effort. It was the least professional campaign I’ve ever seen. If she’s the cream of the Moscow intelligence community then we have nothing to worry about.”
Was it all part of a set-up to trap Trump? As we noted earlier, she was apparently present at anti-Trump rallies, and it seems she managed to get around — a lot.
All of this, naturally, raises the questions: Was she in the country illegally when she met with Trump Jr.? And was this all part of an effort to entrap Trump?
- Set-up? Veselnitskaya Facebook page filled with anti-Putin, anti-Trump posts; Report
- CNN’s Chris Cuomo: Okay for Hillary to get opposition research on Trump from Ukraine — Video
- Fact check: Donald Trump Jr. did NOT commit treason — Here’s why
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