Senator: Russian-American lobbyist should testify on Trump Jr. meeting
Posted July 14
A Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee says a Russian-American lobbyist ought to testify, after it emerged that he was one of at least eight people who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in June 2016.
During an interview on CNN's "OutFront" Friday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal told Kate Bolduan that the lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, should be called before the Judiciary Committee to give his account of the meeting.
"He is relevant because his specialty as a Russian lobbyist was, in fact, lifting sanctions, and arguably that was Vladimir Putin's main objective in possibly offering dirt on Hillary Clinton," Blumenthal said.
Trump Jr. had previously said that Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and music publicist Rob Goldstone were present at his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The Associated Press reported on Friday that Akhmetshin also attended.
A source familiar with the circumstances told CNN there were at least two other people in the room as well: a translator and a representative of the Russian family who had asked Goldstone to set up the meeting. The source did not provide the names.
Akhmetshin is a registered lobbyist for Veselnitskaya's organization, which has focused on lobbying Washington to overturn the Magnitsky sanctions, according to lobbying records. The Magnitsky Act allows the United States to withhold visas and freeze the assets of Russians thought to have violated human rights.
The lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. has not responded. The White House has not commented yet either.
Blumenthal added that he would not rule out Akhmetshin being subpoenaed, and speculated there may be other meetings that have not been disclosed yet.
"He is a US citizen," he said. "He could be subpoenaed, and the individuals called so far, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, lead me to think that this individual will be called as well by Chairman Grassley, because I believe he's intent on getting all the truth that we can about this meeting and others. And here's the important point -- this meeting likely was not the last on this topic, likely not the only one. "
The senator also said he believes there is an obvious reason why there continue to be shifting stories about the meeting.
"The reason I think it keeps changing is that the administration has something to hide," Blumenthal said. "That's the clear indication from this changing story -- the contradictions, deception, nondisclosure, promises of the whole truth and then clearly not so."