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Ex-Soviet officer who attended Trump Tower meeting is connected to pro-Clinton org that made dossier

The Russian-American lobbyist connected to Trump Tower meeting formally worked for pro-Clinton organization that published anti-Trump intel "dossier." (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The former Soviet counterintelligence officer who met with the Trump campaign last summer at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer for a now-infamous meeting that allegedly centered on information damaging to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee is connected to an anti-Trump organization.

According to reports, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin worked as a lobbyist alongside Fusion GPS, the liberal opposition research firm that created and promoted the so-called "Trump dossier." The group is also connected to Clinton.

That document, an otherwise unverified and fictitious intelligence report, was published by BuzzFeed in January just days before Donald Trump would be inaugurated. It also initiated the mainstream media's Trump-Russia collusion crusade that has ravaged American since.

Akhmetshin connection to Fusion was made public in a letter that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to then-acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente in March.

Grassley was writing over concerns that Akhmetshin and Fusion hadn't registered as foreign agents in pursuant with the Foreign Agent Registration Act.

The press announcement about Grassley's letter read:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is asking whether a suspected former Russian intelligence officer-turned U.S. lobbyist and the firm behind the unsubstantiated anti-Trump dossier should have registered as foreign agents for their efforts to bring down a U.S. law on behalf of the Kremlin. According to a complaint filed with the Justice Department, Fusion GPS, which was also involved in the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, was involved in the pro-Russia campaign to kill the Global Magnitsky Act around the same time.

Grassley goes on to write in his letter:

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.

Grassley sent four questions to the DOJ. It's not clear if they responded by the requested date.

The Magnitsky Act was signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2012 to impose sanctions on Russia for fraud, money laundering and alleged human rights abuses.

According to the Associated Press, Akhmetshin only attended the Trump Tower meeting after being invited by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on the same day the meeting was scheduled to take place. During the meeting, Veselnitskaya offered Donald Trump Jr. documents that allegedly proved the DNC was receiving illegal monies, Akhmetshin told the AP. However, Trump Jr. has so far denied any wrongdoing.

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