A Former Putin Ally Just Testified That Putin Orchestrated Trump Jr. Secret Meeting
Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort did not appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee today as originally scheduled, leaving the floor open for the intense testimony of William “Bill” Browder, who has made it his mission in life to expose the gross corruption in Russia that leads directly to President Vladimir Putin. (Video below.)
Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management – once a major investor in Russia – testified about the real purpose of the June 2016 meeting attended by Donald Jr., Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in New York City.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked Browder the key question – whether the Russians were trying to influence the U.S. election, which would be a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act:
“Is there any doubt in your mind, knowing as well as any American how Vladimir Putin operates, that Natalia Veselnitskaya was there acting on behalf of Vladimir Putin and the Russian government?”
“There is no doubt,” answered Browder, adding that he is also sure that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist, was also there on behalf of the Russian government.
Donald Jr. and the others had been lured to the meeting with the promise that the Trump campaign (Trump had been officially nominated by Republicans two weeks earlier) would be provided with information harmful to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In the emails sent to Donald Jr., which he released to the public, it is made explicitly clear that the Russians were acting on behalf of Putin’s regime, making the attendance of the three Americans an immediate violation of the law since they did not report it or clear it in advance.
Their illegal attendance, while a crime, is overshadowed by the real intent of the meeting and the reason the Russians were attending, which involves a criminal plot that Browder is absolutely sure Putin knew about and approved in advance because it is very, very important to him. It was the basis of a plan to influence the U.S. election.
“These two individuals,” asked Blumenthal, “Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin, were acting on behalf of Vladimir Putin in initiating a potential agreement, legally probably a conspiracy, involving the Russian government and Donald Trump Jr., and the other participants in that meeting, correct?”“That was the intention of the Russians,” responded Browder, adding that the attendance of the two Russians meant that “the Russian government and Vladimir Putin were in effect coming to this meeting.”https://twitter.com/mdwblitz/status/887345823507337217
The meeting was part of a larger, well-funded, very intense campaign by the Russian government to get Congress to repeal the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act – known simply as the Magnitsky Act – passed in 2012 and signed into law by President Obama.
The act allows the American government to order funds in U.S. banks that belong to Russians, including Putin, to be frozen if it is proven they have been involved in serious human rights abuses.
“Despite the White House’s desire to reset relations with Russia at the time,” testified Browder, “this case shined a bright light on the criminality and impunity of the Putin regime and persuaded Congress that something needed to be done.”Putin, added Browder, was furious because this was a direct threat to millions, even billions of dollars, that the Russian president had personally siphoned from the government, or been given as his share of illicit booty stolen or embezzled in Russia.
Most of that money was sent for safe keeping to the West, and after the Magnitsky Act, there was a chance it could be seized – even though the crimes had been committed in Russia and not on American soil.
Putin responded by banning the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans. That was particularly cruel, explained Browder. Russia never allowed the adoption of healthy children, only those with disabilities and diseases – and still, American families wanted those kids.
There is no money in Russia for the sick, HIV positive, or mentally disabled, so forcing them to stay there was a death sentence, testified Browder. “In practical terms, this meant that Vladimir Putin sentenced his own, most vulnerable and sick Russian orphans to death in order to protect corrupt officials in his regime.”
“The Magnitsky Act created real consequences outside of Russia,” added Browder, “and this created a real problem for Putin and his system of kleptocracy.”
So while the June 2016 meeting might have been a minor fishing trip for Donald Jr., if his account is to be believed, it was a very big deal to the Russians.
The main purpose of that meeting, Browder believes, was to see how willing the Trump campaign would be to cooperate with the Russian effort to repeal The Magnitsky Act. The Russians were there on the direct orders of the general prosecutor of Russia, acting on behalf of Putin.
If Trump was cooperative, Putin was ready to use all means, legal and illegal, to sway the election in his direction – which is exactly what happened.
It has been made public that Veselnitskaya brought with her to the meeting with Donald Jr. a plastic folder or envelope – but it has never been clear what was in her package, or what happened to it after the meeting. Donald Jr. by some accounts took it with him.
Browder is convinced the documents inside the envelope laid out the Russian case for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act and included information intended to discredit the financier.
“I know in vague terms that it was a folder constructed of various stale and disproven allegations against me by the Russian government for tax evasion that they had made many years ago as part of their efforts to discredit me,” Browder said this month on Public Radio International in the U.S.
Veselnitskaya, according to Browder, served as an attorney for the FSB state security service, a successor to the KGB. She acted on their behalf between 2005 and 2013 on a battle over ownership of some real estate in Moscow.
Once a Russian agent, always a Russian agent, charged Browder.
His own story begins in Chicago, where Browder was born. After managing investments in Russia for Soloman Brothers, at the time a major Wall St. investment bank, Browder founded Hermitage Capital Management with Edmond Safra, a controversial Arab Jew from Syria who moved to the West and became a billionaire. His company was bought by American Express, which led to a series of lawsuits which he won.
Hermitage started in Russia with $25 million and its timing was excellent. The Soviet era had ended and many government-controlled businesses were being sold to private investors, a number of whom turned to Heritage to borrow money to invest.
As Hermitage invested in Russia’s largest oil company, natural gas company, banks and more, Browder became aware of a culture of corruption that was part of the way of life in Russia. At first, he thought he could deal with it, but as the corruption crept higher, so did the costs to do business.
In 2006, Browder began to blow the whistle on the corruption, which led to Russian agents seizing his company records. About $230 million intended to be paid to Russia as taxes were seized and disappeared forever – at least in a legal sense.
Browder at first thought Putin would be an ally against rich Russians who were stealing from everyone, the people, and government, but then he discovered a deal had been made which gave Putin half of all the ill gotten gains – money that went to him personally.
Browder believes most of his $230 million went to Putin, whom he estimates has personal assets and cash holdings of over $200 billion.
Browder hired a Russian attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, who began to investigate the missing money and the culture of corruption. When he got close to the criminals, Magnitsky was arrested and spent seven months before he was to go on trial in various Russian prisons, where he was mistreated, beaten, denied health care, and eventually died in 2009.
The act passed by Congress in 2012 is named in the late Sergei Magnitsky’s honor.
There were a series of murders and mysterious deaths of others who tried to help Browder, who himself has been threatened with death several times.
With the revelations from the Panama Papers, which detailed secret off shore transaction, including those by many Russians, Browder says there is clear evidence of Putin’s personal involvement and his own actions to salt away many millions.
Despite constant attacks on his integrity and reputation by the Russians, Browder has made it his life work to fight Putin and his allies. He has been thrust back into the spotlight by the meeting Donald Jr. agreed to attend.
He wants Americans to understand the Russian interference, the attempts to influence Trump, the many murders of political opponents are all part of a larger gangster style efforts of the Russians.
“I hope that my story will help you understand the methods of Russian operatives in Washington and how they use U.S. enablers to achieve major foreign policy goals,” testified Browder, “without disclosing those interests.”
Whether the Trump family and associates actively worked with the corrupt Russians, they clearly benefited from what Putin and the gang did to sway the campaign toward Trump.
Trump’s efforts to befriend Putin and dismiss the Russian interference are exactly what Putin wants. By benefiting from criminal activity, Trump is part of an illegal conspiracy that eventually will all come out.
For the sake of all Americans, it can’t happen soon enough.