US tries to block entry request for Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting

Senate investigators spoke with Russians present at Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr.
Senate investigators spoke with Russians present at Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr.

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    Senate investigators spoke with Russians present at Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr.

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Senate investigators spoke with Russians present at Trump Tower meeting with Trump Jr. 02:43

(CNN)US prosecutors have objected to an entry request for Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who became known for attending the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower.

Veselnitskaya, an attorney for Cyprus-based company Prevezon Holdings and its Russian owner, Denis Katsyv, asked for immigration parole, an alternative to the visa process, to attend a hearing to finalize a $5.9 million civil forfeiture settlement reached with the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. US authorities have accused Prevezon as being a front for a money-laundering operation that moved cash out of Russia and washed the money through Manhattan real estate.
"The government's position here -- that immigration parole is unwarranted in the absence of a concrete and imminent need for testimony -- is thus consistent with the regulations and its previous positions in this case," a lawyer for the government wrote in a letter to the judge overseeing the case Thursday.
The letter was earlier reported by The Wall Street Journal.
    The government lawyers said they previously denied visa requests in the case, including one made in spring 2016. The lawyers learned from news reports that Veselnitskaya later received a visa from the State Department. The same day she attended oral arguments in an appeal relating to the Prevezon case, she also went to Trump Tower to meet top Trump campaign officials.
    Attending the Trump Tower meeting was Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. British music publicist Rob Goldstone, Veselnitskaya, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, translator Anatoli Samochornov and Ike Kaveladze, who works for the Russian oligarch who initiated the meeting, were also there.
    The June meeting is now an area of inquiry in Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether anyone from the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to influence the election. Multiple committees on Capitol Hill are also investigating the meeting and interviewing key players.
    In a footnote to the letter, the government attorneys signaled the June meeting may be grounds for denying future visa requests.
    "The government may not, however, again admit Veselnitskaya into the country to assist in witness preparation if she is not herself a witness. Although the government did so previously, Veselnitskaya's reported meeting with presidential campaign officials in June of 2016 (of which this Office was not aware prior to its public reporting) or other factors may alter this assessment."
    Prevezon was accused of stealing $1.9 million from the Russian Treasury through $230 million tax refund fraud scheme that was laundered through real estate. The alleged scheme was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer hired by Bill Browder's Hermitage Capital Management.
    Magnitsky was later jailed by the Russian government and later died in a Moscow prison under suspicious circumstances.
    The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which imposed sanctions Russians accused of violating human rights. Russia responded by banning adoptions by Americans.
    Kaveladze is scheduled to appear before the House intelligence committee Thursday. Veselnitskaya previously told CNN in a text that she would appear before the Senate committee conducting its own investigation. "Yes, I'm ready, if I will be provided with guarantees for my safety. I do not intend to say anything more, on the advice of my lawyers," she texted CNN.
    She previously told The Wall Street Journal that she has a relationship with Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and that they exchanged information during her lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act.
    Veselnitskaya's talking points for the meeting obtained by CNN show her focus was on the sanctions -- a matter of significant interest to the Kremlin -- with only a passing mention to the Clinton campaign.
    Emails leading up to the meeting indicated that the "crown prosecutor of Russia" wanted to get information about Hillary Clinton to Trump's team.
    Trump Jr. has downplayed the meeting, telling the Senate judiciary committee, "To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out."
    Veselnitskaya denies that she has ever worked for the Russian government, and a Kremlin spokesman said the notion was "absurd."
    Prevezon had a Monday deadline to pay $5.9 million as part of the settlement but notified the court that its recently unfrozen assets were frozen again by the government of the Netherlands as part of a separate investigation. Prevezon did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.