After media scrutiny forced Donald Trump Jr. to reveal the email chain that showed President Trump’s top advisers met with a Russian lawyer to gain information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, the Trump camp adopted the retroactive spin that Trump Jr. had actually shown admirable transparency about this meeting. Trump Jr. went on Sean Hannity’s show to do damage control, leading the president to exult: “He was open, transparent and innocent.”
But this new scoop from NBC News will make that posture a lot harder to sustain:
The Russian lawyer who met with the Trump team after a promise of compromising material on Hillary Clinton was accompanied by a Russian-American lobbyist — a former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence, NBC News has learned.
The lobbyist, who denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies, accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. The Russian-born American lobbyist served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the U.S., where he holds dual citizenship.
The Associated Press has identified the lobbyist as Rinat Akhmetshin. It is not yet clear what the significance of this is, in terms of what it says about what exactly transpired at the meeting. Trump Jr. has dismissed the meeting as insignificant, because no “meaningful information” came of it, but this news invites more scrutiny of that claim. As NBC News notes, such matters will be of great interest to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and congressional investigators.