Russian lawyer in Trump Jr scandal prepared to testify in Congress


Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with close associates of US President Donald Trump during his election campaign last year, said in comments carried by Russian state media on Wednesday that she is ready to tell her story to Congress.

Veselnitskaya has been at the centre of a scandal in recent days as speculation swirls that her meeting with Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr, was agreed on the grounds that she could provide damaging information about rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

"If the Senate wishes to hear the real story, I will be happy to speak up and share everything I wanted to tell Mr Trump," Veselnitskaya told Russian state-funded broadcaster RT.

Veselnitskaya has campaigned for years against the US Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian officials with sanctions on the allegation that they were responsible for the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

Magnitsky had worked for a large foreign investor in Russia, Hermitage Capital, run by British businessman Bill Browder, who became a major proponent of the 2012 Magnitsky Act.

Veselnitskaya blamed Browder for the recent scandal around Trump and Trump Jr, saying Browder has been seeking to discredit her legal efforts against the Magnitsky Act.

The remarks come amid mushrooming questions about the encounter that led a group of Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday to ask the FBI to review Ivanka Trump's security clearance.

The security clearance process that gives government officials access to sensitive information involves an in-depth background check that inquires about foreign contacts by family members, raising questions about Ivanka Trump's disclosures of her brother and husband's activities.

The letter signed by 22 Democratic lawmakers expresses concern that Ivanka may have "engaged in similar deception" as her brother Donald Trump Jr and husband, Jared Kushner, who were not initially forthcoming about their contacts with foreign officials.

"To date, Ms Trump and her husband Jared Kushner have played an influential role in her father's administration," the lawmakers wrote. "The juxtaposition of their public and private roles may be murky and confused, but her obligation to disclose her families' and her foreign contacts is not."

Questions were also swirling in Washington about the president's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg this month after it emerged the leaders had spoken a second time beyond their disclosed bilateral meeting.

The White House dismissed as overblown media reports of a two-hour undisclosed meeting at a dinner of world leaders, confirming Trump had spoken "briefly" with Putin at the event but denying it had attempted to hide a second meeting between the leaders.

"It is not merely perfectly normal, it is part of a president's duties, to interact with world leaders," the White House said. "Throughout the G20 and in all his other foreign engagements, President Trump has demonstrated American leadership by representing our interests and values on the world stage."

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