A federal grand jury has indicted a Kremlin-linked lawyer, who met U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son and other members of his campaign in 2016, on charges of obstruction of justice in a case that highlights her ties to the Russian government, despite her repeated denial.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is believed to be in Russia, is accused of secretly working with a Russian government prosecutor to draft a false declaration in the course of her legal representation of a Russian firm that was sued by the U.S. government for money laundering, according to an indictment unsealed on Tuesday.
The 43-year-old Russian lawyer entered the spotlight in 2017 after it was disclosed that she had held a secret meeting with Donald Trump Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in June of 2016.
The president’s eldest son later released emails showing he agreed to the meeting after he was told by an intermediary that Veselnitskaya represented the Russian government and had damaging information about Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump Jr. later said that the meeting instead focused on the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. accountability law named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was allegedly beaten to death in prison in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of tax fraud.
The firm Veselnitskaya represented in New York, Prevezon Holdings, was at the heart of the $230 million tax fraud scheme uncovered by Magnitsky. In the case, U.S. prosecutors sought to prove that the company had laundered the proceeds of the scheme involving corrupt Russian officials.
Veselnitskaya’s 2015 declaration in the Prevezon case “presented supposed investigative findings by the Russian government” where in fact she had drafted those findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor, U.S. prosecutors said.
“Fabricating evidence submitting false and deceptive declarations to a federal judge in an attempt to affect the outcome of pending litigation not only undermines the integrity of the judicial process, but it threatens the ability of our courts and our Government to ensure that justice is done,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the circumstances leading up to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and subsequent statements made by Trump and his son about the meeting.
The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the latest indictment,
Trump has defended the meeting, tweeting last year it was “totally legal and done all the time in politics.”
Veselnitskaya told CNN on Tuesday that she will “defend her professional honor.”
The Prevezon case was settled in 2017.