When news broke that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was charged with obstruction of justice, all that Western media outlets and the #Resistance could hear was ‘Trump Tower,’ even though the case had nothing to do with it.
Veselnitskaya famously met with several members of then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign in July 2016, including his son Donald Trump Jr, supposedly offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Proponents of the conspiracy theory that Trump “colluded” with Russia to somehow steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton have long claimed this meeting at Trump Tower is key evidence against the current US president.
Major media outlets – not just in the US – therefore made sure to include a “Trump Tower” reference in reporting on Veselnitskaya’s indictment, which was filed on December 20 in the Southern District of New York and made public on Tuesday. Only a few bothered to note that the indictment has to do with a totally unrelated case.
The actual complaint against Veselnitskaya alleges that she “well knew but concealed from the court” that she had a hand in drafting a report on the case she was litigating in the US, “in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor” who was not named. This report, submitted by Russia under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the US, was then cited by Veselnitskaya in defending the real estate company Prevezon Holdings Ltd. from claims of money laundering by “Investment Company-1.”
That company was Hermitage Capital, whose owner Bill Browder gave up his US citizenship in 1998 to avoid paying taxes on billions he was making on shadowy business dealings in Russia. Browder was convicted of tax fraud in Russia, but has avoided extradition by campaigning in the West to brand Moscow a human rights violator over the death of his accountant, Sergey Magnitsky – after whom the far-reaching US sanctions legislation was dubbed the Magnitsky Act.
The indictment does not say where the evidence of email exchanges between Veselnitskaya and the unnamed Russian prosecutor came from. In April 2018, however – just over a year after the Prevezon case was settled and closed – US government propaganda outlet RFE/RL reported the existence of the emails, sourcing them to Dossier, an outfit run by Browder’s fellow ex-oligarch and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. A search of Dossier turns up a series of articlesunder the title that can be roughly translated as “How Veselnitskaya controlled the prosecutor.”
Although the indictment against Veselnitskaya – suspiciously unsealed on the eve of Trump’s first-ever primetime national address – has absolutely nothing to do with the July 2016 Trump Tower meeting, that has not stopped the US president’s critics on social media and in Congress from declaring that Trump is finished, this time for sure, yet again.