Chuck Ross, DCNF
The Russian-American lobbyist who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting had contacts with members of Hillary Clinton’s inner circle and knew Clinton herself, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2017.
“I knew [Clinton]; I knew some people who worked on her campaign,” the lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in closed-door testimony on Nov. 14.
A transcript of the testimony was released along with other meeting attendees on May 16.
Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military intelligence officer, also said his attorney, Edward Lieberman, knows Clinton well. Lieberman’s late wife, Evelyn Lieberman, was a close confidante of Clinton’s. At one point, Akhmetshin said he was not a fan of President Donald Trump’s family.
The revelation of Akhmetshin’s Clinton links are significant because he has been portrayed as a possible conspirator in a collusion scheme between Trump’s campaign and Russian government.
Akhmetshin attended the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Donald Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after an associate, Rob Goldstone, told him a Russian government attorney — now known to be Veselnitskaya — wanted to provide dirt on Clinton.
“If it is what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr. wrote back to Goldstone.
Trump Jr., Akhmetshin and other meeting participants all testified to the Judiciary panel the meeting was a dud and no information about Clinton changed hands. Instead, Veselnitskaya lobbied heavily against the Magnitsky Act, a law blacklisting Russian human rights abusers. Veselnitskaya carried into the meeting a memo that accused Bill Browder, a London-based banker who is the leading force behind the Magnitsky Act, of links to improper donations to Democrats.
In a bizarre twist, it turned out Veselnitskaya’s memo was put together by Glenn Simpson, the founder of Fusion GPS — the firm that commissioned the Steele dossier. Simpson happened to be working with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin to investigate Browder as part of an effort to undermine the Magnitsky Act.
In his testimony, Akhmetshin said he has known Simpson for more than a decade and has been a source for him when Simpson worked at The Wall Street Journal.
Akhmetshin was also asked about his contacts with Clintonworld.
“Did you ever have any meetings with the Hillary Clinton campaign or campaign officials?” One committee investigator asked.
“Not with officials, no,” Akhmetshin said, adding of Clinton he “met her in social setting, not on a professional line.”
Akhmetshin did not go into more detail about his contacts with Clinton associates or Clinton herself, though he left open the possibility the contacts occurred during the campaign.
Committee investigators also asked Akhmetshin who he might have discussed the Trump Tower meeting with. Investigators were exploring whether the existence of the meeting might have made its way to Christoper Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier.
The dossier, which the Clinton campaign and DNC funded, does not refer directly to the Trump Tower meeting. But the 35-page report does allege unnamed Russian operatives provided information about Clinton to the Trump campaign.
Akhmetshin also testified that in addition to his wife, he told two journalists about the meeting shortly after it occurred.
Akhmetshin told BuzzFeed’s Aram Roston and The Associated Press’s Desmond Butler about the Trump Tower meeting “probably a few weeks after, maybe,” he said.
Akhmetshin was not sure whether he told the reporters about the meeting before or after the July 22, 2016, release of emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee, he said later in the testimony.
Akhmetshin said the reporters asked to write about the Trump Tower meeting, but he said they could not.
“They said, ‘Can we write about it?’” Akhmetshin testified.
“They were kind of excited about that, at that time probably not as excited they would have been like a year later. But, again, no one believed that it would ever go anywhere, that campaign. But I said like, no, it’s not my secret, guys. I’m just telling it to you kind of on the — and they said like when the time is right, would you let us know, and I said, ‘yes, I would let you know.’”
Akhmetshin has not responded to requests for comment, and Roston did not reply to an email seeking additional information about his interaction with the lobbyist.
Akhmetshin also told Lieberman, his attorney, about the meeting, though he suggested he did so after he told the reporters. Investigators questioned why Akhmetshin would tell journalists about the meeting before telling Lieberman, who in addition to being his lawyer was also working on the same anti-Magnitsky project with Akhmetshin, Veselnitskaya and Glenn Simpson.
“Again, I try to be discreet,” Akhmetshin said.
Akhmetshin also offered his opinion of The Trumps.
“I’m not a fan of the whole family,” he noted.