By Kevin Bailey
More incriminating evidence regarding Donald Trump Jr.’s attempt to collude with a Russian government lawyer in June 2016 has surfaced. According to numerous reports, a former Soviet spy was present at the meeting that also included Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law (and top aide to the elder Trump), Jared Kushner, as well as then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
Rinat Akhmetshin, who became a lobbyist for Soviet-era oligarchs after moving to the United States from Russia over a decade ago, confirmed Friday that he was present at Trump Jr.’s meeting with, Natalia Veselnitskaya a high-powered lawyer with deep ties to the Russian government.
Both the White House and Trump Jr. had hidden the fact of the former Russian spy’s presence at the meeting, despite having commented publicly about the meeting on numerous occasions. The revelation of Akhmetshin’s presence at the already shady meeting will certainly increase the controversy regarding the younger Trump’s attempts to collude with the Russian government to hurt the Hillary Clinton campaign.
In emails setting up the meeting (and to which Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically) Veselnitskaya was described clearly as a Russian government lawyer. Those emails said that Veselnitskaya could provide damning information about Clinton to Trump Jr., which was characterized in these emails as being “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. himself released these damning emails in an attempt to subvert the New York Times. Reporters for the Times had given him a courtesy call asking if he wished to comment on the record for their story publishing the contents of the emails. Trump Jr. lied to the Times, asking for an hour to put together a statement with his legal team. Within minutes, he had published the emails himself (a deep breach of protocol), in an attempt to redirect a narrative that was veering wildly off the rails.
Akhmetshin said that as the meeting opened, Trump Jr. asked Veselnitskaya, the Russian government lawyer, for damaging information about funding for Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. When Veselnitskaya said she didn’t have proof of that, Trump Jr. quickly became bored. Trump Jr. admitted this week that Veselnitskaya had no information about Clinton.
Akhmetshin now claims he has no ties to Russian intelligence, a claim that seems far-fetched to many foreign intelligence and national security experts. He now lobbies the U.S. Congress on behalf of rich Soviet-era oligarchs.
Ultimately the revelation that Trump Jr.–and, by extension, his father–hid the presence of a former Soviet spy at the meeting is another piece of concrete proof that the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with Russia to hurt the Clinton campaign and meddle in the presidential election. Those who were asking for “evidence of collusion” just a few weeks ago now have it. The evidence of collusion is no longer circumstantial. It is concrete and unquestionable. What the Republican party chooses to do with that concrete evidence is the question that must now be asked. Will the GOP put patriotism over party, for the first time in the last six months? We shall see, but I am not hopeful.