A bombshell new report from BuzzFeed News has just added another deeply suspicious wrinkle to what we know about the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and surrogates of the Russian government during the 2016 campaign. It’s been established that the Trump campaign associates were hoping to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians, but much of what was said in that room is still shrouded in mystery.
Now, BuzzFeed has discovered that a lobbyist who attended the meeting received $500,000 spread out over several suspicious payments before and after the face-to-face took place. The man in question, Rinat Akshmetshin is a former Soviet military officer who now works as a lobbyist.
Bank investigators flagged his deposits leading up to and following the meeting, because they lacked explanation, came from a foreign source, and may have constituted a violation of lobbying regulations. The information about the payments has since been handed over to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, although his office refuses to say whether or not they have investigated them further.
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When BuzzFeed approached Akshemetshin at his house to ask him about the story, he said, “Get the f*ck out of here, okay?”
Veselnitskaya also refused to offer comment on the story, and told Buzzfeed in Russian, “Don’t bother with questions. Your article is paid for and you have your text ready. Don’t be distracted from what you consider the meaning of life.”
One of the installments was paid directly by Denis Katsyv, a Russian businessman whose foundation was used to disperse several of the other payments. Previously, Katsyv’s company Prevezon Holdings was accused of money laundering by the Department of Justice.
Katsyv also supported efforts by Akshmetsin and Russian attorney Natalya Veselnitskaya (who also attended the Trump Tower meeting) to lobby for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act, an American law that sanctions numerous Russian officials. Repealing the act is a primary goal for the Russian government and all its interrelated criminal organizations.
“Beyond his work with Katsyv and Veselnitskaya, investigators discovered that Akhmetshin had received large, mostly unexplained wire transfers from companies in Latvia and Panama, and payments from longtime American political insiders, one of whom is a veteran Republican operator with ties to the Trump campaign,” writes BuzzFeed.
While it’s unclear if Akshmetshin was receiving the money in relation to the meeting, the timing is highly suspect. At the very least, this new update shows that there is still much we don’t know about the Trump Tower meeting. Hopefully, now that Democrats have control of the House of Representatives and the subpoena power that comes with it we will finally get the full truth.
Original reporting by Emma Loop, Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold, Tanya Kozyreva, and John Templon of BuzzFeed News.