How did that Russian lawyer get to stay in the U.S.?

Natalia Veselnitskaya is the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016. Trump, Jr. met with her because he thought she might have information damaging to Hillary Clinton. Apparently, she had none and wanted to talk instead about the Magnitsky Act, about which more later.

These facts are well known to anyone who has been following the news recently. What’s less known is that Veselnitskaya was not in the U.S. lawfully.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley has written to Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to complain about this and related matters. Grassley informs Kelly and Tillerson:

According to her sworn declaration, former Russian prosecutor Natalia Veselnitskaya was denied a U.S. visa to travel to the United States from Russia to participate in litigation. Although she was subsequently granted immigration parole to make the trip, her parole was set to expire on January 7, 2016. Her request to extend was denied on January 4, 2016.

Yet she was still in the U.S. in June when she met with Trump, Jr. Grassley’s letter seeks information about how could have happened.

Grassley’s letter also notes that Veselnitskaya used the meeting with Trump, Jr. to lobby against the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that blacklisted Russians who were determined to have engaged in certain human rights violations. Veselnitskaya’s role in the Russian lobbying effort to undermine this Act was later cited in a complaint alleging that she and others promoting the same cause failed to register as Russian agents under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).

According to Grassley, the same complaint cited Fusion GPS as also lobbying against the Magnitsky Act without having registered as Russian agents. Fusion GPS is the firm hired originally by an anti-Trump Republican and then retained by Democrat backers to develop the bogus anti-Trump dossier.

The complaint called Veselnitskaya, Fusion GPS, and Rinat Akhmetshin — reportedly a former Russian GRU counterintelligence officer — “the cohort of Russian agents allegedly involved in the ongoing effort to undermine the Magnitsky Act.” That Act of Congress, by the way, is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney who, after reporting large-scale Russian corruption, was arrested and died in custody under suspicious circumstances.

Is it just a coincidence that Veselnitskaya was aligned with a group that was developing a dossier on Donald Trump?

In his letter, Grassley says that Veselnitskaya’s unlawful presence in the U.S. at the time of the meeting at Trump Tower “raises serious questions about whether the Obama administration authorized her to remain in the country, and if so, why?” I agree.

It seems unlikely, however, that the Obama administration was trying to set the Trump campaign up. If it had been, wouldn’t we have heard about this meeting long ago?

It’s true, or so it appears, that nothing came out of the meeting. However, the fact that Trump, Jr. met with the Russian lawyer at all, after expressing a strong interest in obtaining negative information about the opposition, likely would have been deemed embarrassing enough for Clinton to use during the campaign or for Democrats to use soon after Clinton lost the election, when the collusion chorus began singing.

If we learn the nature of Secs. Tillerson and Kelly response to Chairman Grassley’s letter, we’ll report it.

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