Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting charged in unrelated case
A Russian lawyer who became a focal point of the investigation into whether there was collusion between Russians and President Donald Trump’s election campaign has been charged with obstruction of justice in an unrelated case.
- Ms Veselnitskaya met with Trump campaign aides in New York in the run-up to the election
- Donald Trump Jr said he agreed to the meeting when promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton
- The President has denied having prior knowledge of the meeting
Nataliya Veselnitskaya was charged with obstructing justice by filing a misleading statement in a money laundering case, which was settled in 2017.
Ms Veselnitskaya “participated in drafting those supposed exculpatory investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor,” the US Attorney’s office in Manhattan said in a statement.
Ms Veselnitskaya emerged as a critical figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign because of her meeting with Trump campaign aides in New York in the run-up to the election.
Moscow denies interfering in the election to help Mr Trump.
A spokesman for Mr Mueller declined to comment on the charge against Ms Veselnitskaya.
Donald Trump Jr, the President’s son, has said he agreed to the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s Democratic opponent.
Mr Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and top campaign aide Paul Manafort also attended the June 9, 2016, meeting.
The allegation that Ms Veselnitskaya covertly worked with a Russian prosecutor in drafting a misleading statement to the court solidified the notion that Ms Veselnitskaya was an agent of the Kremlin, a former federal prosecutor said.
“It makes that meeting seem all the more nefarious,” said Barbara McQuade, a former US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
“It is one more piece to suggest she is acting on behalf of the Russian Government.”
Mr Trump has denied having prior knowledge of the meeting.
He has also denied colluding with Russia to influence the election and has called the Mueller investigation a political witch-hunt.
Ms Veselnitskaya represented Prevezon Holdings Ltd, a Russian-controlled company, which in 2017 agreed to pay nearly $6 million to settle a US government lawsuit accusing it of laundering proceeds of a $230 million tax fraud.