Senator demands to know how Russian lawyer was able to enter the U.S.

Senator demands to know how Russian lawyer was able to enter the U.S.
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 at Trump Tower to discuss damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But now, one U.S. senator wants to know how she was allowed to remain in the U.S. when her visa had expired. (Yury Martyanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Natalia Veselnitskaya is at the center of the political firestorm around the meeting in 2016 that Democrats are claiming as proof of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

The Russian lawyer was characterized as an agent of the Russian government’s effort to defeat then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, though she denies the connection.

Now questions are arising about how she was in the country in the first place to attend that meeting.

According to a report from the Daily Beast, Veselnitskaya didn’t appear to have visa authorization to enter the country when she did in 2016.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York said that Veselnitskaya had been granted an “immigration parole” in 2015, but it expired in early 2016 and wasn’t renewed.

The State Department would not confirm or deny whether Veselnitskaya applied again for a visa in 2016, let alone if a visa was granted. A spokesperson told The Daily Beast the State Department could not comment due to privacy considerations. Veselnitskaya also did not respond to requests for comment.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding answers from the State Department on the issue. In a letter sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he wrote, “It is unclear how [Veselnitskaya] was still in the country for that meeting despite being denied a visa beforehand and her parole purportedly expiring on January 7, 2016.”

“This raises serious questions about whether the Obama administration authorized her to remain in the country, and if so, why?” he asked.

Some have speculated that the Obama administration had something to do with allowing her in the country, fueling a conspiracy theory that the entire meeting was orchestrated to set up Donald Trump Jr.

Natalia Veselnitskaya is the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016. Her name has not officially been linked to the Kremlin or any pro-Kremlin party or organization. Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dimitry Peskov said the Kremlin has never even heard her name before. Veselnitskaya rose to power when she defended Denis Kastyv, a Russian businesses man who was accused of money laundering in the U.S. The case was resolved in New York in May for $6 million, only days before it was set to go to trial.

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