GOP lawmaker met with lawyer at center of Russia probe

GOP lawmaker met with lawyer at center of Russia probe
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Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who has come under scrutiny for his sympathetic views toward Moscow, reportedly met last year with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the same Russian lawyer embroiled in Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump reversed course on flavored e-cigarette ban over fear of job losses: report Trump to award National Medal of Arts to actor Jon Voight Sondland notified Trump officials of investigation push ahead of Ukraine call: report MORE Jr.'s controversial meeting at Trump Tower.

Rohrabacher's meeting came two months before Veselnitskaya's meeting with the president's eldest son. He has also met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who during the 2016 campaign published leaked Democratic emails the intelligence community says were hacked by Russia.

Trump Jr. took the meeting last year in New York after being promised damaging information on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonImpeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy 'Too Far Left' hashtag trends on Twitter MORE, though he has denied that any was delivered.

The California lawmaker, who has largely supported improving relations between Washington and Moscow, met with the lawyer in April 2016 to discuss the U.S. sanctions against Russia that were in response to the Kremlin's human rights abuses. Veselnitskaya lobbied against the punitive measure, known as the Magnitsky Act.

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Veselnitskaya disclosed the previously unknown meeting during a Tuesday interview with a pro-Russian Crimean news service, Foreign Policy reported.

“We just asked to listen to us, just to listen to the alternative version,” Veselnitskaya reportedly said, while slamming the sanctions and claiming lawmakers like Rohrabacher had been deceived with such measures.

“‘Do not let yourself be used by scammers,’” she recalled saying.

Kenneth Grubbs, a spokesman for Republican lawmaker, told the magazine that he believed the Russian lawyer was “among many people” Rohrabacher met with during his trip to Moscow, in which he led a congressional delegation.

Grubbs also told Foreign Policy that Rohrabacher “was not focused on her identity” and did not recall the meeting. 

Rohrabacher's trip and his willingness to hear arguments against the Magnitsky case have previously been reported.

“I had a meeting with some people, government officials, and they were saying, ‘Would you be willing to accept material on the Magnitsky case from the prosecutors in Moscow?' And I said, ‘Sure, I’d be willing to look at it,’ ” Rohrabacher recalled in an interview with The Hill in July.

Democrats have called for Rohrabacher to be replaced as chairman over a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee over his ties to Russia.

The new report comes as special counsel Robert Mueller's probe for the Justice Department appears to be picking up steam as he asks the White House to turn over all documents related to the Trump Tower meeting and initial, misleading statements on it from the Trump family.

Trump Jr. has become a key figure in the various Russia probes following reports of the meeting. 

In addition to Mueller, multiple congressional committees are investigating the Kremlin's election interference and any possible coordination with the Trump campaign.