Key GOP senator: Why was Russian lawyer tied to Trump Jr. scandal in US?
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary Democrats eye Dec. 11 exit for House due to COVID-19 A need for reauthorization of the Elder Justice Act MORE (R-Iowa) is asking top Trump administration officials to explain why a Russian lawyer who met with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE Jr. last year was allowed in the country.  

Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asking why Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed to stay in the country when, according to court documents, she had to leave in early 2016. 

"It is unclear how she 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?" Grassley wrote. 

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Veselnitskaya met with Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in June 2016. The meeting was supposed to be about potentially damaging information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton offers congratulations over Elliot Page announcement Biden brushes off criticism of budget nominee Mellman: Mired in Partisanship MORE, according to Trump Jr. 

Grassley is asking Tillerson if Veselnitskaya applied for a visa and for any details of a potential application, including if she had to go through any additional procedures. 

He wants DHS to say if Veselnitskaya is currently in the United States. She previously said that she was granted a parole letter to enter the United States to argue a court case. 

Grassley wants to know any restrictions or extensions of her parole, what agencies were involved in the decision, dates when she left or entered the country, and listed addresses. 

The June 2016 meeting has captured the attention of lawmakers after Trump Jr. released an email chain of his correspondence with music publicist Rob Goldstone about arranging a meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Goldstone told Trump Jr. that Veselnitskaya had "information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

But Veselnitskaya told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she did not represent the Russian government and "never had compromising information and could not have had."

The New York Times reported Sunday that Veselnitskaya has advocated for the Russian government in the past and that her clients have included "state-owned businesses and a senior government official's son."

The Kremlin has denied knowledge of the meeting and that it has any connections to Veselnitskaya.

Grassley's letter comes as his committee is investigating Russia's election interference, including potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinCriminal justice groups offer support for Durbin amid fight for Judiciary spot Bottom line Incoming Congress looks more like America MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDespite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill GOP urges Trump not to tank defense bill over tech fight Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks MORE (R-S.C.) are both calling on Trump Jr. to testify before the Judiciary Committee.