The Russian lawyer whose June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other top Trump campaign officials has become a prime focus of the Russian election collusion probe is denying the meeting involved Hillary Clinton or the U.S. campaign, adding the congressional probes into the scandal are not interested in hearing her side of the story.
In a 10-minute interview on the Russian news program Vesti, Natalia Veselnitskaya said she sought the meeting as part of her efforts to help Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, a client who was accused of money laundering after the U.S. imposed new financial sanctions on Moscow in 2012.
“It was a private meeting,” Ms. Veselnitskaya told the interviewer, according to an account Friday in the Moscow Times. “I asked for help — help to get out a story I had come across in my professional capacity.”
The meeting “had nothing to do with [then-candidate Donald Trump’s] rivals or the presidential election,” she added. “That never happened. That’s not true.”
The meeting has attracted enormous attention because the email exchange between Mr. Trump Jr. and the British publicist who hekoed arranged the meeting described Ms. Veselnitskaya as a “Russian government lawyer” who could provide”some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and Jared Kushner, a campaign adviser and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, also attended at least part of the meeting. They have denied that any incriminating information was given or that there was any follow-up to the meeting.
In the television interview, Ms. Veselnitskaya said her purpose in speaking to the Trump campaign was part of an effort to speak to “everyone who could provide any kind of support in the U.S. Congress” for her client’s case.
She was harshly critical of William Browder, the head of Moscow investment firm Hermitage Capital Management, who successfully lobbied for U.S. sanctions on Russia after a Hermitage lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in custody in Moscow in 2009 while facing charges for questionable tax evasion charges.
Mr. Browder told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing looking into the Russian collusion charges July 27 that Ms. Veselnitskaya and other Russians at the June 2016 meeting were there representing Russian President Vladimir Putin and were trying to set up links to the Trump campaign.
“The Russian government and Vladimir Putin were in effect coming to this meeting,” Mr. Browder said.
But Ms. Veslenitskaya told the Russian news show the meeting was “innocent” and that Mr. Browder was running a “financial scam.”
Mr. Veselnitskaya also complained that she had not been invited to testify at any of the hearings of the multiple House and Senate committees looking into the Trump-Russia collusion charges.
“They don’t want the truth there at the moment. They need an enemy,” she said. “Some because they are looking to undermine Trump, some because they want to fuel the conflict with Russia.”
The video of the interview can be found here.