Russian lobbyist received suspicious payments around the time he went to infamous Trump Tower Meeting: BuzzFeed News

Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian lobbyist in Washington, D.C., who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting with President Donald Trump's campaign chair and family members, received large, suspicious payments around the time of the meeting, according to a new report from BuzzFeed News.


Donald Trump Jr. arranged the meeting over email during the 2016 campaign, which he was later forced to reveal in 2017 after the New York Times began reporting on it. An associate reached out to tell him that, as part of the Russian government's efforts to help his father's campaign, a Kremlin-linked lawyer wanted to meet with him. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer, and Akhemtshin were among those who eventually met with Trump Jr., Campaign Char Paul Manafort, and the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

BuzzFeed News reported:

Documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News show that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Soviet military officer turned Washington lobbyist, deposited large, round-number amounts of cash in the months preceding and following the meeting, where a Russian lawyer offered senior Trump campaign officials dirt on Hillary Clinton.

...

In the months before and after the meeting with the Trump campaign, documents show that Akhmetshin made unexplained cash deposits totaling $40,000, and received a wire transfer of $100,000 directly from Katsyv along with $52,000 from a foundation funded by Katsyv and other wealthy Russians to try to undermine that law. Bankers examining the lobbyist’s accounts flagged these transactions for a variety of reasons, including the inability to explain them, their overseas origin, and a suspicion that they showed Akhmetshin had violated federal lobbying law.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly focused on the meeting as a part of his Russia investigation. The congressional committees investigating Russia's involvement in the 2016 election have likewise scrutinized the meeting.

BuzzFeed News faced a wave a backlash for its recent report that claimed Mueller had evidence that Trump directed his personal attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a real estate deal with the Kremlin. The day after publication, the special counsel's office issued a vague statement saying that parts of that story were "not accurate." BuzzFeed News has stood by its reporting.

The new story, however, appears to be on more solid ground — while the story contradicted by Mueller cited two "law enforcement sources" who were familiar with the evidence at hand, the new article about Akhmetshin says that BuzzFeed News is in direct possession of the documents that recorded the suspicious payments. Much of BuzzFeed News' previous reporting on the Russia investigation and, in particular, its accounting of the history of the Trump team's efforts to build at Trump Tower Moscow during the 2016 campaign, has been reliable and subsequently vindicated.

And it should be remembered that the Trump team itself has no credibility on this topic — it lied for months by claiming that it had no ties or interests in Russia during the campaign, only for dozens of such connections, including the Trump Tower meeting itself, to be revealed.

Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya had — shall we say — interesting reactions when BuzzFeed News reached them for comment:

Akhmetshin and his lawyers did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Reached on his doorstep, the lobbyist told BuzzFeed News, “Get the fuck out of here, okay?”

Veselnitskaya also declined to answer questions. “Don’t bother with questions,” she told BuzzFeed News in Russian. “Your article is paid for and you have your text ready. Don’t be distracted from what you consider the meaning of life.”

It's not clear what the reported payments for Akhmetshin were for or where they came. However, in addition to the recent accusation from the U.S. government that Veselnitskaya is guilty of obstruction of justice, the report suggests that the Trump team was willing and eager to meet with deeply suspect figures in its pursuit of negative information about Clinton.

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