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Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting charged in unrelated case

Updated: 2019-01-09 01:33

File Photo: External view of the Trump Tower in New York. [Photo/IC]

Jan 8 - A Russian lawyer who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower under scrutiny in the US special counsel's probe of Russian election meddling was charged in an unrelated case that US prosecutors said showed evidence of her ties to the Kremlin.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, who represented Russian defendants in a money laundering case settled in 2017, was charged with obstructing justice by submitting a declaration that she falsely represented came from the Russian government independently, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

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.

Veselnitskaya emerged as a critical figure in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and Donald 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 Trump.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment on the charge against Veselnitskaya.

Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, has said he agreed to the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent. 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 Veselnitskaya covertly worked with a Russian prosecutor in drafting a misleading statement to the court solidified the notion that 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."

The US President Donald Trump has denied having prior knowledge of the meeting. Trump has also denied colluding with Russia to influence the election and calls the Mueller investigation a political witch hunt.

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. 



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