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CNAT20170713_VES_TRUMPJR_CIRCA

Russian lawyer's special immigration parole status raises more questions than answers

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There are more questions than answers when it comes to Natalia Veselnitskaya - the Russian lawyer at the heart of the Donald Trump Jr. scandal.

And it all begins with her immigration parole status in the United States.

Read Declaration of Natalia Veselenitskaya

In a January 2016, affidavit Veselnitskaya tells the courts, that she and her children had been denied a U.S. visa, as first reported by Circa. She argued that she needed to be in the U.S. to represent Prevezon Holdings Ltd. and Katsyv in a forfeiture case brought by the Southern District of New York, court documents state. She warned that she would not "be able to participate in the defense of this action by traveling to the United States. For that reason, I applied for a visa to enter the United States, but was denied."

Veselnitskaya was granted entry into the U.S. in October of 2015 by the Department of Justice under a special immigration parole status issued only under "extraordinary circumstances," as reported by The Hill. She was granted that status, then under Attorney General Loretta Lynch's office, so she could represent her Russian client Denis Katsyv and his company Prevezon Holdings Ltd., according to numerous court documents obtained by Circa.

She claimed in the court documents that she was representing her clients but her actions told a different story. Veselnitskaya was using her time in the U.S. to lobby against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that denies certain Russians visas and access to American banks who were allegedly connected to the death of whistle blower Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky, a tax lawyer, unraveled a $230 million dollar Russian mob scheme that allegedly defrauded the London-based Hermitage Fund, with offices in Moscow. Some of the central figures Magnitsky exposed in the alleged scheme was Prevezon Holdings Ltd. and its owner Katsyv. Magnitsky was imprisoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin and allegedly tortured and killed before his release.

But it appears the trail on Veselnitskaya's immigration parole status in the U.S. runs dry after she applied for another extension in January 2016, where she stated she needed to represent her clients.

On May, 12, 2016 Prevezon Holdings settled with the U.S. government for $6 million dollars and at this point it appears it was no longer necessary for Veselnitskaya to be issued an extension to stay in the United States. In fact, there appears to be no documents or court records showing Veselnitskaya’s extension of her parole status.

In early June Veselnitskaya reappears in the United States On June 9, the Russian lawyer, through an acquaintance, meets with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort at Trump Towers, according to emails released by Donald Trump Jr. In the roughly 20 minute meeting Veselnitskaya did not offer Trump Jr. opposition research on then candidate Hillary Clinton as promised, but began lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, according to interviews with both Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya.

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On June 13, she attended a screening of a controversial film, “The Magnitsky Act,” which questioned the U.S. law and the story behind Magnitsky’s death. The screening was attended by some U.S. lawmakers, journalists and congressional aides.

The next day Veselnitskaya made her way to Capitol Hill - sitting in the front row behind then U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing U.S. Policy Toward Putin's Russia.

Shortly after, she attended a dinner with congressional aides and lobbyists, including Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, R-California, who told The Hill “There was a dinner at the Capitol Hill Club here with about 20 people. I think I was the only congressman there. They were talking about the Magnitsky case. But that wasn’t just the topic. There was a lot of other things going on. So I think she was there, but I don’t remember any type of conversation with her between us. But I understand she was at the table.”

State Department spokeswoman Ambrose Sayles could not comment on how Veselnitskaya was allowed to stay in the country or the status of her parole, telling Circa that all "visa records remain confidential." Sayles also noted that all visas are adjudicated on a "case-by-case basis in accordance with U.S. law. Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits us from discussing individual visa cases."

She said noted that "visa records may be used for the formulation, amendment, administration, or enforcement of the immigration, nationality, and other laws of the United States."

U.S. officials had been watching Veselnitskaya for some time and there was concern that she was connected to the Kremlin, sources told Circa. Veselnitskaya dismissed reports in other media outlets that she was tied to the Kremlin, although she was once married to the former deputy of transportation minister in Moscow.

After trying to extend her October immigration parole, Veselnitskaya was denied her request on January, 4, 2016.

She also complained that her parole status in the United States subjected her to humiliating treatment and that she was harassed by government officials both in the U.S. and abroad.

"I was detained for two hours by Heathrow Airport officials who specifically targeted me on the basis of my parole number that the United States Government had assigned to me," she says. "During this detention I was unjustifiably subjected to a strip search, for no apparent reason. I should not be subjected to such humiliation when I have been promised entry into the United States, to defend against the scandalous accusations in this lawsuit on behalf of my client," she told the courts.

Veselnitskaya’s lawyers argued for an extension of her special parole status in January 2016, as she was still representing Prevezon Holdings, Inc.

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During the trial, Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Paul Monteleoni, who represented the U.S. against Prevezon Holdings, told Judge Thomas P. Griesa, “In October the government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole.” Monteleoni added he would inquire with the proper authority to follow through on Veselnitskaya’s request.

The judge then requested a seven-day extension, which ended on January 14.

After that, no public records apparently exist.

Who approved her return to the United States from Moscow to meet with Donald Trump Jr. and the lobby on Capitol Hill is still a mystery.

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