Yesterday, NBC News ran a breathless and, as it turned out, dishonest story about a “former Soviet counterintelligence official” who was also in the now-famous meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who was banned from entering the United States but to whom, for some reason, the Obama Justice Department granted a special permission just in time for the meeting with Trump, Jr.
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.
NBC News is not naming the lobbyist, who denies any current ties to Russian spy agencies. He 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.
Naturally, the same cadre of NeverTrumpers and anti-Trumpers were quick off the mark tying this guy, Rinat Akhmetshin, by inference, to the KGB/SVR/FSB and to the Trump campaign. Sometimes to read this stuff you’d think there was a law against using Google or maybe your brain.
There is a problem with this story. Rinat Akhmetshin works for/with Fusion GPS. Take this March 31 letter from Senator Charles Grassley to then-acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente–that’s right March 31:
It is particularly disturbing that Mr. Akhmetshin and Fusion GPS were working together on this pro-Russia lobbying effort in 2016 in light of Mr. Akhmetshin’s history and reputation. Mr. Akhmetshin is a Russian immigrant to the U.S. who has admitted having been a “Soviet counterintelligence officer.” In fact, it has been reported that he worked for the GRU and allegedly specializes in “active measures campaigns,” i.e., subversive political influence operations often involving disinformation and propaganda. According to press accounts, Mr. Akhmetshin “is known in foreign policy circles as a key pro-Russian operator,” and Radio Free Europe described him as a “Russian ‘gun-for-hire’ [who] lurks in the shadows of Washington’s lobbying world.” He was even accused in a lawsuit of organizing a scheme to hack the computers of one his client’s adversaries.
As you know, Fusion GPS is the company behind the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and Russia. It is highly troubling that Fusion GPS appears to have been working with someone with ties to Russian intelligence –let alone someone alleged to have conducted political disinformation campaigns– as part of a pro-Russia lobbying effort while also simultaneously overseeing the creation of the Trump/Russia dossier. The relationship casts further doubt on an already highly dubious dossier.
The actions of Mr. Akhmetshin, Fusion GPS, and the others described in Mr. Browder’s complaint appear to show that they acted on behalf of a foreign principal. This is exactly the type of activity Congress intended to reach with FARA. When properly enforced, FARA provides important transparency. However, in this case, because none of the parties involved in the anti-Magnitsky lobbying had properly registered under FARA, these suspicious connections were not appropriately documented and brought to public light. In fact, it is unclear whether the FBI was or is aware of Fusion GPS’s pro-Russia lobbying and connection to Mr. Akhmetshin, or that these efforts coincided with the creation of the dossier. Presumably, such awareness would have informed the FBI’s evaluation of the dossier’s credibility. This is why it is important for the Department of Justice to actually enforce FARA’s disclosure requirements.
And that is how NBC lies by omission. Akhmetshin’s links to pro-Russia lobbying efforts and to Fusion GPS are well documented. Fusion GPS’s links to pro-Russia lobbying efforts and to the international woman of mystery, Natalia Veselnitskaya, are also known. But the fact that two Fusion GPS operatives had a meeting with Trump, Jr., at a time when their employer/prime contractor/whatever was shopping the Trump dossier doesn’t even cause a tingle of curiosity.
Right now we have two of the attendees at this meeting, that would be both of the Russians, who either worked for or with Fusion GPS on a pro-Russia lobbying effort. In addition to the pro-Russia lobbying, Fusion GPS also produced the very pro-Russia and virtually 100% fictitious “Trump dossier.” At some point the people who are pushing every bullsh** story that comes out of the media should be asking why the same people doing opposition research on Trump were involved in setting up a bait-and-switch meeting with Donald Trump that was tailored to fit into the Hillary Clinton campaign’s narrative of Trump being under the influence of the Kremlin. By the preponderance of evidence, who is actually working for Russia? But that would require work.