A former Soviet counterintelligence officer-turned-lobbyist was also in the room with Donald Trump, Jr. when he met a Kremlin-linked attorney who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, according to NBC News and the Associated Press.
Rinat Akhmetshin, who TPM previously reported was part of a lobbying and PR effort around the adoption issue Trump Jr. initially said was the subject of the meeting, confirmed to the Associated Press that he was in the room. NBC News first reported Friday morning that there was a fifth person in the room, but in an odd move declined to name that person.
Akhmetshin downplayed the importance of his and Veselnitskaya’s conversation with the Trump campaign. “They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” Akhmetshin told the AP. The meeting was “not substantive” and his side of the talks “actually expected a more serious” conversation.
Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and now his senior advisor, also attended the meeting arranged by music publicist Rob Goldstone at Trump Jr.’s request. Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the information the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, supposedly had to offer was part of the Russian government’s support for the Trump campaign.
Akhmetshin, a Russian émigré, says he has dual citizenship. He told Radio Free Europe in July of last year, “I am an American citizen since 2009 who pays taxes, earned his citizenship after living here since 1994, and swore an oath of loyalty to the United States of America,” protesting his characterization in a lawsuit that accused him of having worked for Russian intelligence. He would have had to declare such ties when he emigrated.
Akhmetshin was in the Russian army from 1986 to 1988, he told the AP, but he said that he had not done counterintelligence work. Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has accused Akhmetshin of working for the Russian GRU security service.
A career lobbyist, Akhmetshin was reportedly working at the time of the Trump Tower meeting for Denis Katsyv, head of the real estate firm Prevezon group that was ensnared in a U.S. investigation of a vast alleged Russian money-laundering scandal that had damaged the reputation of both Katsyv and Russian President Vladimir Putin. That Veselnitskaya, Katsyv’s attorney, was represented as an agent of the Russian government in Goldstone’s emails with Trump Jr. suggests ties between Putin’s interests and Katsyv’s.
This post has been updated.