Speed Reads

the russia connection

Republican congressman met with Kremlin-linked lawyer months before her meeting with Trump Jr.

Two months before Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort in Trump Tower last year, Veselnitskaya had an encounter with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) during a trip he took to Moscow, Foreign Policy reports.

Veselnitskaya told a Crimean news service that in April 2016, while Rohrabacher was leading a congressional delegation to Moscow, they met and she urged him to repeal the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. law that targets assets belonging to officials accused of human rights violations. She told the news service she said American lawmakers were tricked into voting for the bill, and warned him not to be "used by scammers." Rohrabacher is a vocal supporter of Russia who was reportedly told by the FBI in 2012 that Russian spies were trying to recruit him and was the butt of a "bad attempt at a joke" by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R), who said last year he thought Russian President Vladimir Putin paid "Rohrabacher and [Donald] Trump. Swear to God."

Kenneth Grubbs, a spokesman for Rohrabacher, told Foreign Policy that Veselnitskaya was "among many people" he met on the trip, but he "was not focused on her identity" and didn't remember ever meeting her. Veselnitskaya said she gave Rohrabacher a documentary on the Magnitsky Act — the same one Rohrabacher tried to show in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June 2016 — but Grubbs said Rohrabacher has no recollection of this. Veselnitskaya met with Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort in June 2016 after Trump Jr. was told she had potentially explosive information on Hillary Clinton. That meeting is now the focus of federal investigators looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials during the presidential election.