Over the course of the last week, we’ve learned about a meeting between Russian spies and Trump Jr., which took place during the presidential campaign and in Trump Tower. On Sunday, we learned there was an unreported meeting between Donald Trump Jr., and potential Russian foreign agents. On Monday, we learned that the meeting was arranged by a Russian. on Tuesday, we learned that the meting was with Russian foreign agents and about Russian sanctions. On Wednesday, we learned that the meeting was specifically about the Russian government helping Trump with the “Hillary problem.” On Thursday, we learned that a second Russian agent was at the meeting, and that the person is a known former counter intelligence spy and Russian lobbyist. Yesterday, Friday, we learned that there were actually twice as many people at the meeting than was originally reported.
There are many angles to this meeting, but probably the most significant is the fact that Russian lawyer, with deep ties to Putin (and therefore a likely government agent), Natalia Veselnitskaya, was present. Veselnitskaya represented Russian company Prevezon, which was indicted in the U.S. for money laundering. After Trump took office, however, the case was abruptly dismissed.
The timeline is interesting. On September 10, 2013, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicted Prevezon for money laundering in New York. Prevezon then hired Veselnitskaya to represent it in the case. Three years into the representation, on June 9, 2016, Veselnitskaya contacted the Trump team and promised to give them dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr., was excited, claiming he’d “love” to get dirt on his political opponent from a foreign agent (which is a crime).
On November 9, 2016, Trump wins the election. Then on March 11, 2017, two months into his presidency, Trump fired Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney that indicted Prevezon. Two months after that, Trump’s DOJ, which is led by Jeff Sessions, a man that also had contacts with Russian foreign agents during the campaign that he lied about, settles the $230 million money laundering case against Prevezon for $6 million.
Was such a low settlement reasonable? The Russians claimed that it was so low it proved that the U.S. was basically apologizing for filing the suit. So either it was a bad, dead end lawsuit–which is unlikely since the U.S. Attorney’s office is filled with absolute top-notch lawyers–or it was settled for other reasons:
The settlement was so meager that one of Prevezon’s US attorneys said it was “almost an admission that they shouldn’t have brought the case.” Veselnitskaya herself crowed that it was “almost an apology from the government.”
It is important to also noted that some in the U.S. viewed the $6 million settlement as a victory since the key witness was thrown out of a window in Russia and all the U.S. could ultimately prove was money laundering of about $1.9 million. Even the fired Preet Bharara seemed to think the resolution was a good one.
In any event, at the end of the day, Veselnitskaya got exactly what she wanted.