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Homeland Security confirms special entry for Russian lawyer
The Homeland Security Department confirmed Friday that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was granted special entry to the United States on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016 at the request of the Justice Department.
It also said Veselnitskaya eventually won a nonimmigrant work visa around the time she met President Trump's eldest son in New York last summer.
Homeland told The Hill that Veselnitskaya was allowed to enter the United States on multiple occasions between September 2015 and February 2016 under a "Significant Public Benefit Parole" document requested by the Justice Department so she could participate in a court case for a client.
The request was done "in concurrence" with the U.S. attorney's office in New York City, which was enforcing a civil asset forfeiture case against Prevezon Holdings, a company owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, whom Veselnitskaya represented as a private attorney in their home country.
Katsyv is one of three Moscow businessmen connected to a lobbying campaign against the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law punishing Russia for human rights violations. The lobbying campaign was spearheaded in Washington by Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, who was revealed on Friday to have been in an election-year meeting with Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr.
Homeland's statement confirmed court testimony and records cited by The Hill on Wednesday that Veselnitskaya was initially turned down for a visa to enter the United States and required the special immigration parole permission as late as January 2016. The court records did not indicate how she entered the country after that time.
A federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan told the court in a hearing in January 2016 that the "extraordinary circumstances" parole request needed to be approved by Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
"In October the government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole," Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni was quoted in the court transcript as saying. "That's a discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, we did that so that Mr. Katsyv could testify. And we made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist."
Lynch issued a statement Thursday that distanced herself from any government decision to let the Russian lawyer enter the country, saying the former attorney general "does not have any personal knowledge of Ms. Veselnitskaya's travel."
The statement was issued after President Trump suggested Lynch might have been responsible for the Russian lawyer's encounter with his eldest son Donald Jr. that is now under investigation.
Homeland said Veselnitskaya first got her immigration parole letter on Sept. 25, 2015 and it was last used in February 2016.
In June 2016, Homeland said Veselnitskaya was granted a B-status nonimmigrant visa so she could conduct her legal work in the country. Those typically create six months of entry permission, but can be extended as long as a year, according to the DHS's web site.
It was in June 2016 that Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower with Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The Trump players thought the Russian was bringing political dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton but she instead used the encounter to talk about the Magnitsky Act, according to released emails and interviews the eldest Trump son gave.
Veselnitskaya then traveled to Washington to continue her efforts to lobby against the anti-Russian law, attending a movie screening, a congressional hearing on Russia and a dinner that included at least one Republican congressman, The Hill has reported.
In an interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya stated her June trip involved lobbying against the Magnitsky Act and that she never had any dirt to share on Clinton.