TEL AVIV — A Russian translator who worked on behalf of the State Department, including during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, was reportedly present at the June meeting at Trump Tower with President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
On Friday, the New York Times reported that Rinat Akhmetshin, a U.S. lobbyist and former Soviet military serviceman, was present for the brief meeting with Trump Jr.
Akhmetshin identified an individual named Anatoli Samachornov as being the Russian translator who was present at the meeting at which Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya reportedly argued against the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials. The meeting was reportedly presented to Trump Jr. as being about information regarding Hillary Clinton. Veselnitskaya reportedly does not speak English and has given interviews to U.S. news media outlets through translators in recent weeks.
Samachornov would not confirm to the New York Times that he was present at the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, only admitting that he was working with Veselnitskaya on efforts related to opposing the Magnitsky Act during the time of the meeting at Trump Tower.
The Times did not provide any background on Samachornov beyond reporting his name and that he was a “translator.”
Samachornov is more than that. According to his LinkedIn profile, from 2005 until recently, Samochornov was a project manager at the Meridian International Center, which describes itself as a “nonprofit, global leadership organization headquartered in Washington, DC.”
Meridian is a principal partner of the U.S. State Department.
Samochornov’s LinkedIn profile says he was an interpreter and a “partner/owner” in Interpreter Boutique, which provided translation services.
The LinkedIn profile further describes his work on behalf of the State Department, purportedly while he was at Meridian. The timeline of his work at Meridian includes the period when Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.
Samochornov’s LinkedIn profile lists the following activities:
- Represented the U.S. Government in securing cooperation of key U.S. resources in the corporate, governmental and NGO community.
- Collaborated with the U.S. and international aid agencies and stakeholders on devising business plans and training workshops on a variety of different topics.
Samochornov was listed as the program administrator for the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, which is implemented by Meridian. Breitbart News found the draft program book for the March 4-12, 2013 leadership initiative, which listed a State Department email for Samochornov.
An email sent to the State address listed for Samochornov, firstname.lastname@example.org, did not bounce back, indicating the address could still be active.
Samochornov was also listed as the “Program Officer” for the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program in February 2010. The FBI’s New York field office participated in that month’s program.
Samochornov’s number at the International Visitor Leadership Program is still functional. It is answered by a message from Samochornov saying he will be away starting December 24, 2014 “until further notice.”
Efforts to reach Samochornov for comment, including on his personal cell phone and via the WhatsApp application, were unsuccessful.
A phone and email request for comment to Medirian’s communications department about Samochornov’s employment at the group was not returned before press time.
A complaint sent to the Justice Department from Hermitage Capital Management, an investment fund that specializes in Russian markets and was founded by Magnitsky Act primary proponent William Browder, listed Samochornov as a “Russian born professional interpreter and project manager for the U.S. State Department.”
The Magnitsky Act, strongly opposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is intended to sanction Russian officials accused of involvement in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption whistleblower who died in prison, allegedly after being beaten. Magnitsky was hired by Browder’s Hermitage Capital to investigate alleged fraud involving Russian officials.
Russia in turn later accused Browder and Magnitsky of evading taxes, and Browder was convicted in absentia by a Moscow court in 2013. Browder has denied any wrongdoing.
The Daily Beast reported on some of Samochornov’s possible ties to Veselnitskaya related to the repeal of the Magnitsky Act:
In February, an organization calling itself the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, an obvious echo of the full name of the Magnitsky Act, was registered in Delaware. Little trace of the activities or provenance of this organization exist online, apart from its “under construction” website, whose homepage is written in ungrammatical English. …
The Daily Beast has seen an email sent to the Open Dialog Foundation, a Poland-based NGO, from a man named Anatoli Samochornov, who claimed to “represent” HRAGIF along with Natalia Veselnitskaya, identified in the email as “a Russian lawyer who conducted an extensive investigation of the Magnitsky case.”
Both Samochornov and Veselnitskaya were seeking press accreditation to attend an event last month at the Open Dialog Foundation where Browder was slated to speak. They were denied accreditation.
The meeting with Trump Jr., meanwhile, was reportedly set up by publicist Rob Goldstone, who claimed in an email to Trump Jr. that Veselnitskaya had opposition dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Veselnitskaya told the Wall Street Journal that she approached Russian real estate magnate Aras Agalarov, whom she was representing, to help set up a meeting with the Trump campaign as part of her efforts opposing the Magnitsky Act. She was also looking to spread information about Browder, she said.
Agalarov organized the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow when the pageant was partially owned by Donald Trump.
Agalarov’s son Emin, a Russian singer who also knows the Trumps, reached out to Goldstone, his publicist, to contact the Trump campaign on behalf of Veselnitskaya, according to the Journal report.
Speaking to Fox News last week, Trump Jr. explained that he took the meeting, which he said lasted around 20 minutes, thinking it was about “opposition research” on Clinton and was disappointed that it wasn’t.
“For me this was opposition research,” Trump Jr. said. “They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about … so I think I wanted to hear it out. But really it went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was about.”
Trump Jr. spoke about the contents of the meeting. “It was this, ‘Hey, some DNC donors may have done something in Russia and they didn’t pay taxes.’ I was like, ‘What does this have to do with anything?’”
Trump Jr. told Fox News that Goldstone apologized for wasting the campaign’s time with the meeting.
“I think what happened [is] he sort of goosed up, he built up, there was some puffery to the email, perhaps to get the meeting, to make it happen,” Trump Jr. said. “In the end, there was probably some bait-and-switch about what it was really supposed to be about.”
Speaking to the Journal, Veselnitskaya indicated there was a mix up about the intent of the meeting: “My expectation before the meeting was he read my letter of information, he got interested, and he was going to help me. His expectations were totally different, as I can understand now.”
“By the time I stepped into the meeting room to talk with Donald Trump Jr., all I knew was that I approached the elder Mr. Agalarov with a request to help,” Veselnitskaya said. “And I knew his son Emin communicated with Donald Trump Jr.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
This article was written with additional research by Joshua Klein.