Putin critic: Veselnitskaya 'an agent of the Russian government'
Posted April 27, 2018 8:46 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A main proponent of the Russia sanctions law known as the Magnitsky Act says Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign associates in 2016, is "a full-on agent" of Moscow.
Bill Browder, a Vladimir Putin critic who pursued the sanctions law after the suspicious death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, in a Russian prison, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Friday that Veselnitskaya's statement in an interview with NBC News that she was a Russian informant is "sort of only halfway there."
"She was an agent of the Russian government," asserted Browder, who has said Veselnitskaya has been trying to overturn the sanctions law. "She's an agent of Vladimir Putin, and when she went to Trump Tower, she went there on behalf of Vladimir Putin."
Browder, who is the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, also alleged that Veselnitskaya "lies a lot."
"In this particular case, I think she thinks by calling herself an informant is less damning than when the truth finally comes out about this whole thing, which is that she's a full-on agent," he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, told CNN's Jim Sciutto on Friday that Veselnitskaya reached out to the Trump family after the election with a request to follow up on efforts to repeal the Magnitsky Act, which was enacted in 2012.
Veselnitskaya was the Russian lawyer at the center of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Donald Trump Jr. expected to receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton but instead Veselnitskaya focused on the repeal of the sanctions.
On Friday, The New York Times reported on newly surfaced emails that showed Veselnitskaya had once worked with Russia's chief legal office in an effort to thwart the US Justice Department.
The Kremlin has previously denied any ties between Veselnitskaya and the Russian government, and last year, Veselnitskaya denied having worked for the Russian government in an interview with NBC News.
Browder also said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" that he "doesn't spend his life living in fear," but said he has to "take many precautions that a normal person wouldn't have to take."
"The Russian government would like to see me dead if they could find a way to do it," Browder said.