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Donald Trump Junior’s account of meeting with Russian lawyer corroborated

Far from adding a sinister twist to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, the presence at the meeting of Rinat Akhmetshin, a US citizen, has provided a witness who has corroborated Donald Trump Junior’s account of it.

Alexander Mercouris

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The story of the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on 9th June 2016 has now taken a further twist with the disclosure that the lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin accompanied Veselnitskaya to the meeting.

Some sections of the media are trying to find something sinister in Akhmetshin’s presence at the meeting.  He is being called a ‘lobbyist’ working on behalf of Russian interests to oppose the Magnitsky Act and a “former Soviet counter-intelligence official”.

Akhmetshin is a US citizen.

He may indeed be a Washington lobbyist with a record of opposing the Magnitsky Act.  That of course is not a crime.

Since the Magnitsky Act was precisely the subject Veselnitskaya intended to discuss during her meeting with Donald Trump Junior it is completely unsurprising that she brought a professional lobbyist experienced in opposing the Magnitsky Act with her to the meeting.

Nothing sinister or strange should therefore be read into Akhmetshin’s presence at the meeting.

If Donald Trump Junior did not disclose his presence previously, it may be because his presence was unimportant, or because Donald Trump Junior did not know who he was.

As for whether, presumably as part of his military service, Akhmetshin once served in a Soviet military unit tasked with counter-intelligence, that is completely inconsequential.  As anyone who knows Russians of a certain age can confirm, it was actually quite usual in the USSR for Russians with knowledge of a foreign language to do their military service in such units.  I happen to know at least two such Russians.

As Akhmetshin correctly says, that in no sense means that he was any sort of professional spy, or that he was ever trained as a spy, or that he is a spy now.

As it happens Akhmetshin provides further confirmation of Donald Trump Junior’s account of the meeting.  Here is what he says

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.

“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

“They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya’s documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

This is in all essentials exactly what Donald Trump Junior says happened at the meeting.

In other words all this latest ‘revelation’ has done is provide further corroboration – from someone who is a US citizen and who has no known connection either to the Trump campaign or to the Russian government – that Donald Trump Junior’s account of his meeting with Veselnitskaya is true.

In my recent discussion of the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, I made the point that Veselnitskaya’s status and the purpose of her visit to the US to meet with Donald Trump Junior was so completely misrepresented in the emails Donald Trump Junior received from the British pop music promoter Rob Goldstone (who it turns out also attended the meeting) that clearly some sort of deception was going on and Donald Trump Junior was obviously the target of it.

A theory which has been doing the rounds is that the intention behind the deception was to secure from Donald Trump Junior some sort of commitment to have the Magnitsky Act sanctions lifted in return for damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps the most persuasive account of this theory is the one provided by the US investigative journalist Robert Parry

The Russian lawyer, Natalie Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr. and other advisers to Donald Trump Sr.’s campaign, represented a company that had run afoul of a U.S. investigation into money-laundering allegedly connected to the Magnitsky case and his death in a Russian prison in 2009…..

As a lawyer defending Prevezon, a real-estate company registered in Cyprus, on a money-laundering charge, she was dealing with U.S. prosecutors in New York City and, in that role, became an advocate for lifting the U.S. sanctions, The Washington Post reported.

That was when she turned to promoter Rob Goldstone to set up a meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. To secure the sit-down on June 9, 2016, Goldstone dangled the prospect that Veselnitskaya had some derogatory financial information from the Russian government about Russians supporting the Democratic National Committee. Trump Jr. jumped at the possibility and brought senior Trump campaign advisers, Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, along.

By all accounts, Veselnitskaya had little or nothing to offer about the DNC and turned the conversation instead to the Magnitsky Act and Putin’s retaliatory measure to the sanctions, canceling a program in which American parents adopted Russian children. One source told me that Veselnitskaya also wanted to enhance her stature in Russia with the boast that she had taken a meeting at Trump Tower with Trump’s son.

If Donald Trump Junior had agreed that a future Trump administration would lift the Magnitsky sanctions in return for damaging information about Hillary Clinton then that would indeed have been evidence of a willingness – at least on his part – to collude with Russia in order to help his father win the election.  Proponents of the Russiagate scandal would in that case have some valid points to make about his meeting with Veselnitskaya, though it should be stressed that it still would not have broken any law.

However nothing of the sort in fact happened.  Veselnitskaya came to the meeting either empty handed or with nothing of interest to show, and Donald Trump Junior very properly refused to make any promises about the Magnitsky sanctions – apparently pointing out to Veselnitskaya that he is a private citizen and that she should address her complaints about the Magnitsky Act to those with public authority to decide the question – and showed her the door.

That is what everyone who took part in the meeting – including Akhmetshin and Goldstone – says happened, and there is no reason to doubt it.

I would add that there is no hint in Goldstone’s emails that any trade off of information about Hillary Clinton in return for a commitment to lift the Magnitsky Act sanctions was ever offered.

Though Robert Parry’s theory is plausible and is consistent with what Akhmetshin says, it is fair to point out that the family lawyer of father and son Agalarov – who were the original instigators of the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Junior – says that they categorically deny that the misrepresentations in Goldstone’s emails had anything to do with them, and they blame Goldstone for them

The vast majority of what Rob Goldstone said in email exchange with Donald Trump Jr. is not accurate.  The only thing that’s true is that Emin asked the meeting to be arranged. The rest of it is not true, it’s false.

It is not true that Alar Agalarov had a meeting with Russian prosecutors about the campaign. It is not true that Natalya is a lawyer for the Russian Federation government, we understand that she’s a private practitioner, who represents private clients.  It is not true that our understanding was that the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the campaign, our understanding was only that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Magnitsky Act, which is an issue that we understand Natalya has been pursuing and interested in for some time.

Rob Goldstone was a publicist, a promoter for Emin’s musical career. So, they certainly had a relationship in that regard.

Rob Goldstone is an entertainment industry publicist. So, I think it’s fair to say that he was out of his alignment in making these communications. And what he said … is not true.

The important thing about this denial is that it admits that Emin Agalarov was the person who originally suggested the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya.  However if his denial and that of his father is to be believed, all they had in mind was a meeting to discuss the Magnitsky Act.

Neither of them apparently had any thought of a trade off of information about Hillary Clinton in return for a commitment to lift the sanctions imposed by the Magnitsky Act.

Perhaps the Agalarovs are not telling the truth, or perhaps Veselnitskaya – after securing the introduction to Goldstone from the Agalarovs – fooled Goldstone by pretending to be either the “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” or someone acting for this mythical person, or perhaps Goldstone sought to impress the Agalarovs with his importance by hyping up Veselnitskaya’s status in order to secure the meeting with Donald Trump Junior – which might not have happened otherwise – or perhaps Goldstone and Veselnitskaya were working on the deception together.

However two final points can be made before the chapter is closed on this strange affair.

The first is that there is some speculation that a speech Donald Trump announced around this time, which he said would expose Hillary Clinton’s malpractices but which he subsequently cancelled, was in some way connected to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya.

There is not a scintilla of evidence that this was the case.

The Goldstone emails show that there was no communication between Goldstone and Donald Trump.  There is no evidence Donald Trump ever saw Goldstone’s emails, or had any knowledge of them or of his son’s meeting with Veselnitskaya until the story broke a few days ago.  All those involved categorically deny that he had any such knowledge or that the failure of Veselnitskaya to come up with information about Hillary Clinton had anything to do with the cancellation of his speech.  There is no reason to doubt this, and this theory should be abandoned.

By contrast the wording of Goldstone’s emails does at least point to a possibility that what happened was an unsuccessful attempt either to put flesh on the allegation in the first 20th June 2016 entry of the Trump Dossier that the Russians were feeding information to the Trump campaign from a secret file or dossier that they have on Hillary Clinton, or was possibly an attempt to verify this allegation.

Along with the timing there do seem to be some connections between some of the people involved – including Veselnitskaya and Goldstone – and Fusion GPS, the company which commissioned the Trump Dossier.

Though the Trump Dossier makes no reference to the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya, it does contain one brief reference to Araz Agalarov in an entry dated 14th September 2016, which reads as follows

Two knowledgeable St. Petersburg sources claim Republican candidate TRUMP has paid bribes and engaged in sexual activities there but key witnesses silenced and evidence hard to obtain.

Both believe Azeri business associate of TRUMP, Araz Agalarov will know the details.

This allegation – like many others in the Trump Dossier – is unsubstantiated, impossible to verify, and almost certainly invented.

However it does show that the people responsible for the Trump Dossier had the Agalarovs in their sights, which adds to the possibility that this was some sort of attempt either to spin something sinister out of their relationship with Donald Trump, or to probe into its nature.

There is now inevitably talk of Donald Trump Junior being summoned to testify before various Senate committees about this affair.  In truth since we know all the details of his actions there is no useful point in this other than to make some drama out of it.

If the Senate is really interested in getting to the bottom of this affair then the person they should be asking to see is Rob Goldstone, who was the author of the emails.  On the face of it he has some serious questions to answer, and his replies could be interesting.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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