NEW YORK — Email transcripts and other information disclosed in testimony released by the Senate Judiciary Committee reveals a significant relationship between Russian-born Washington lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and the controversial Fusion GPS firm that produced the infamous, largely discredited anti-Trump dossier.
Akhmetshin was one of the participants at the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials.
The meeting has been the subject of much news media coverage related to unsubstantiated and collapsing claims of collusion with Russia. All meeting participants generally agree the confab focused largely on the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials accused of involvement in the death of a Russian tax accountant, as well as talk about a Russian tax evasion scheme and alleged connections to the Democratic National Committee.
Trump Jr. previously explained that he took the meeting thinking it was about “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton and was disappointed that it wasn’t.
The Russia collusion conspiracy was sparked by the dossier produced by Fusion GPS, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
Akhmetshin’s November 14, 2017 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, released last week and reviewed in full by this reporter, contained numerous sections that detail his past relationship with Fusion GPS and the company’s co-founder, Glenn Simpson. Some of that relationship spanned the period just prior to the meeting with Trump Jr.
In one instance, Akhmetshin was asked about an email obtained by the Senate committee in which he described Fusion’s Simpson as a “colleague.”
The email related to the Russian-linked Prevezon Holdings Ltd., a firm that had settled a case in the U.S. involving the purchase of real estate with allegedly laundered money, accusations that centered around the Magnitsky Act.
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who countered the Magnitsky Act along with Akhmetshin, was an attorney for Prevezon. Veselnitskaya was also present at the meeting with Trump Jr. Fusion GPS was involved in the case since it investigated financier Bill Browder, who successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act and was a witness in the Prevezon legal matter. Fusion GPS investigated Browder for another client and their findings were used in the Prevezon trial.
In his testimony, one Senate griller asked Akhmetshin about a December 2015 email from a Bloomberg News reporter that states he was told that Akhmetshin was “handling media calls” for Prevezon and its owner.
Akhmetshin’s email reply, in which he calls Fusion GPS’s Simpson “my colleague” was read aloud: “I am traveling this week, but my colleague Glenn Simpson, cc’d , will be able to brief you on the particulars of the case.”
Another email read in the testimony described plans for a February 4, 2016 dinner meeting between Simpson, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya, with Akhmetshin confirming that he did have a meeting with Simpson and Veselnitskaya around that time, possibly dinner. This puts Simpson in person with two participants in the Trump Jr. meeting just four months before the June 2016 Trump Tower meet, although Akhmetshin described the meeting with Simpson as being about the Prevezon case.
A major theme of the testimony is Akhmetshin’s self-described working ties to numerous members of the “Western” media.
He describes pitching stories directly to Simpson while Simpson was a journalist prior to his co-founding of Fusion GPS. Simpson previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.
Akhmetshin also relates a previous working relationship with Simpson’s wife, pitching her stories while she served at the Wall Street Journal.
Akhmetshin stated that he helped Veselnitskaya set up her widely circulated NBC News interview in which she claimed she was an “informant” for the Russian government. That interview prompted a flurry of news media coverage attempting to draw connections between the Trump Jr. meeting and the Russian government.
Throughout the testimony, Akhmetshin denied any foreknowledge of Fusion’s anti-Trump dossier. However, he did say that he had heard the salacious charges about Trump from friends in the news media prior to the dossier’s public release by BuzzFeed in January 2017.
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, Trump Jr. explained that he took the meeting 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.
Written with research by Joshua Klein.