Dems: Why did DOJ dismiss fraud case connected to Russian lawyer?

Dems: Why did DOJ dismiss fraud case connected to Russian lawyer?
© Getty Images

Seventeen Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter on Wednesday to the Justice Department demanding answers as to why the agency abruptly dismissed a money laundering case earlier this year involving the Kremlin-linked attorney who met with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hits reset button on messaging Trump Jr., Manafort still haven't agreed to testify before Senate panel House Dem launches effort to ban gov funds from going to Trump properties MORE Jr. during last year's campaign.

In May, the Department of Justice (DOJ) settled United States v. Prevezon Holdings Ltd., a $230 million fraud and money laundering case that accused Prevezon Holdings executives of fraudulently obtaining a tax refund from the Russian treasury.

In the case, Prevezon was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who met with Trump Jr. during the campaign after promising incriminating information on Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonScaramucci deletes old tweets bashing Trump Trump hits reset button on messaging Trump Jr., Manafort still haven't agreed to testify before Senate panel MORE.

ADVERTISEMENT
The Justice Department settled the case two days before trial for just $6 million. The letter, which was posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, demands to know whether the two events are connected.

"Two days before this trial was set to begin, the Department agreed to settle this $230 million case for less than $6 million and no admission of wrongdoing," it reads.

"Ms. Veselnitskaya told one Russian news outlet that the penalty was so light 'it seemed almost an apology from the government.'"

The Democrats demand Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsRights groups commend Trump for trying terror suspect in federal court NYT reporter, Dem senator go back-and-forth on Scaramucci coverage Trump brings terrorism suspect to US for trial in break from rhetoric MORE answer whether he talked with Trump transition officials or White House officials about the Prevezon case either before or after he was named by President Trump to lead DOJ.

ADVERTISEMENT

The letter concludes by noting that the Justice Department owes the House committee a response "to at least twelve other outstanding letters" as the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia continues.

On Tuesday, Trump's eldest son released a stunning chain of emails detailing his conversations about setting up a campaign meeting with Veselnitskaya, who had offered compromising information on Democratic presidential nominee Clinton. 

The information was supposed to "incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” and was "very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.”

President Trump issued a brief statement Tuesday defending his son through White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during an off-camera briefing with reporters.

“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said.