A report out Tuesday connects Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the ardently pro-Russia congressman, to yet another player in the ever-widening Trump-Russia scandal: Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised to bring damaging information about Hillary Clinton to a June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and other Trump campaign officials.
According to a Russian-language interview with Veselnitskaya surfaced by Foreign Policy, Veselnitskaya said she met with Rohrabacher in Moscow during an April 2016 trip that also took him to Berlin, where it was previously reported that he’d met with Washington, D.C. lobbyist and former Soviet operative Rinat Akhmetshin.
“We just asked to listen to us, just to listen to the alternative version,” Veselnitskaya said, according to FP’s translation of the nearly 27-minute-long interview—the “alternative version” being her explanation of the events involving one of her clients that led to Obama-era sanctions on Russia. She recalled telling Rohrabacher “do not let yourself be used by scammers,” in reference to proponents of the Magnitsky Act. The interview was conducted by New Front, a pro-Russian news outlet based in Crimea.
Both Veselnitskaya and Ahkmetshin, who also attended the June 2016 meeting with Trump Jr., have been crusading against the Magnitsky Act for years.
Veselnitskaya had been retained to represent Denis Katsyv, owner of the Prevezon Group and a central figure in one of the largest money-laundering scandals in history. Katsyv was the defendant in a case against the company prosecuted by Preet Bharara, then the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, and had bankrolled a major media campaign, both to rehabilitate his own image and to discredit a key witness in Bharara’s case, William Browder. Browder, through his own company Hermitage Capital, had caught wind of alleged money-laundering via an investigation by an attorney working for him named Sergei Magnitsky, who died in Russian custody after he accused a number of high-level Russian officials of participating in the scheme.
Veselnitskaya’s characterization of Browder, who championed the Magnitsky Act, as a “scammer” in conversation with Rohrabacher is consistent with the way she sought to portray him on Katsyv’s behalf. With the aid of Akhmetshin, Katsyv even commissioned the screening of an anti-Browder documentary at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., followed by a talkback moderated by veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
A Rohrabacher spokesman confirmed the meeting to FP and said that Rohrabacher “was not focused on [Veselnitskaya’s] identity;” she was “among many people” he met while abroad, he said.