The Russian attorney now at the center of suspicions of the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Kremlin was allowed into the country by the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama, it was reported on Thursday.
Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed into the United States in late 2015 under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ even though she did not have a visa, according to The Hill.
The news site is reporting that Veselnitskaya was permitted to enter the country by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who granted her a ‘special immigration parole’ so that she could adequately defend a client under criminal investigation.
At the time, Veselnitskaya was representing a Russian businessman, Denis Katsyv, who was being investigated by the Justice Department for alleged money laundering.
The US charged Katsyv’s company Prevezon Holdings as part of a $230 million tax fraud case.
That case was settled for $6 million in May.
Katsyv has also faced financial difficulties due to the Magnistky Act, a 2012 US law that placed financial sanctions on Russian officials and businesses.
The Russian government has long sought to have the Magnitsky Act, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress, overturned.
The Russian attorney at the center of suspicions of the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with the Kremlin was allowed into the country by the Justice Department under former President Barack Obama. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is seen in the above file photo
In late 2015, Veselnitskaya (left) was representing a Russian businessman, Denis Katsyv (right), who was being investigated by the Justice Department for alleged money laundering
‘In October  the government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole,’ Assistant US Attorney Paul Monteleoni told a federal judge during a court hearing on January 6, 2016.
‘That’s a discretionary act that the statute allows the Attorney General to do in extraordinary circumstances.
‘In this case, we did that so that Mr. Katsyv could testify.
‘And we made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist,’ he said.
While the US Attorney’s Office in New York did confirm that the Justice Department granted Veselnitskaya immigration parole from October 2015 until January 2016, officials there could not explain how she was able to legally enter the country in June.
That was when Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr; Paul Manafort, who at the time was the chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign; and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top advisor.
Trump Jr. eagerly agreed to meet the woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father’s campaign, according to emails the son released on Tuesday.
The emails were the most concrete evidence that Trump campaign officials might have been willing to accept Russian help to win the November 8 election, a subject that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency and prompted investigations by the Justice Department and Congress.
Veselnitskaya was permitted to enter the country by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who granted her a ‘special immigration parole’
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley (above) of Iowa, wants the government to provide all records on how Veselnitskaya entered and traveled in the US, a request that could shed additional light on her activities
Donald Trump Jr., in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, said: ‘In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.’
Nevertheless, the correspondence between him and Rob Goldstone, a publicist who arranged the meeting, could provide fodder for US investigators probing whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
‘The crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,’ Goldstone wrote Trump Jr. on June 3.
Russia does not have a ‘crown prosecutor’ – the equivalent title is prosecutor general.
Five days after the meeting in Trump Tower, Veselnitskaya was seen in the front row of a hearing on Russia policy at the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
She also attended an event at the Newseum in Washington, where supporters of the Russian government screened a film that was aimed at making a case against the Magnitsky Act.
MUST-SEE TV: Donald Trump Jr defended his controversial meeting with Veselnitskaya on Tuesday night on Fox News
Also at the meeting: Paul Manafort, who was then Trump’s campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the then candidate’s son in law, were both with Don Jr as he met the lawyer
Veselnitskaya also attended a dinner with the head of a House subcommittee overseeing Russia policy, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California, as well as other guests.
‘There was a dinner at the Capitol Hill Club here with about 20 people. I think I was the only congressman there,’ Rohrabacher told The Hill.
‘They were talking about the Magnitysky case. But that wasn’t just the topic. There was a lot of other things going on. So I think she was there but I don’t remember any type of conversation with her between us.
‘But I understand she was at the table.’
Rohrabacher said that he believes Veselnitskaya was in Washington to convince lawmakers to overturn the Magnitsky Act.
The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, wants the government to provide all records on how Veselnitskaya entered and traveled in the US, a request that could shed additional light on her activities.
Just before she boarded the plane to the US in late 2015, Veselnitskaya was strip-searched at London’s Heathrow Airport.
She said she was ‘unjustifiably’ detained at the UK airport before boarding a plane to the United States, according to the Telegraph.
‘I was detained for two hours by Heathrow Airport officials who specifically targeted me on the basis of the parole number that the United States Government had assigned to me,’ Veselnitskaya wrote in court papers from January 2016.
Veselnitskaya said she was ‘unjustifiably’ detained and strip-searched at London’s Heathrow Airport before she boarded a plane to the United States
Veselnitskaya spoke to ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ about meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in footage aired Wednesday
‘During this detention I was unjustifiably subjected to a strip search, for no apparent reason.
‘I should not be subjected to such humiliation when I have been promised entry into the United States.’
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not fault his son Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with Veselnitskaya during the 2016 presidential election campaign and he was unaware of the meeting until a few days ago.
Asked if he knew that his son was meeting with her in June last year, the president told Reuters in a White House interview: ‘No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.’
Seated at his Oval Office desk, Trump said he did not fault his son for holding the meeting, writing it off as a decision made in the heat of an upstart, non-traditional campaign.
‘I think many people would have held that meeting,’ Trump said.
In the White House interview, the president said he directly asked President Vladimir Putin if he was involved in what US intelligence says was Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and that Putin had insisted he was not.
Trump said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his more than two-hour meeting with Putin last Friday in Germany on the election meddling subject.
‘I said, “Did you do it?” And he said, “No, I did not. Absolutely not.” I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not,’ Trump said.
Asked if he believed Putin’s denial, Trump paused.
‘Look. Something happened and we have to find out what it is, because we can’t allow a thing like that to happen to our election process. So something happened and we have to find out what it is,’ he said.
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not fault his son Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with Veselnitskaya during the 2016 presidential election campaign and he was unaware of the meeting until a few days ago
About Putin he added: ‘Somebody did say if he did do it you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.’
While US intelligence agencies and even members of Trump’s cabinet have said Russia meddled in the election, Trump has wavered on the subject, at times suggesting that other actors might have been involved.
Trump equivocated on whether he felt he could trust Putin.
He said Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping both look out for their country’s interests, as he looks out for US interests.
‘I am not a person who goes around trusting lots of people. But he’s the leader of Russia. It is the second most powerful nuclear power on earth. I am the leader of the United States. I love my country. He loves his country,’ Trump said.
As in the past, Trump said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
‘There was zero coordination. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,’ he said.
A Republican, Trump said Democrats had used the accusations to justify Clinton’s loss in November, saying: ‘The White House is functioning beautifully despite the hoax made up by the Democrats.’
Although he and Putin were able to forge a ceasefire agreement in part of Syria, Trump said their interests collided over other issues.
He said his US military buildup and drive to increase US energy production were in direct conflict with Putin, whose nation is dependent on energy exports.
Their differences made him wonder whether Putin really had supported him last year, as many news reports have suggested.
‘It’s really the one question I wish I would have asked Putin: Were you actually supporting me?’