Moscow demands 'clear explanation' of US charges against Russian lawyer
Yury Martyanov/Kommersant Photo via AP
Moscow on Friday criticized the US indictment of Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who met with officials from Donald Trump's election campaign in 2016, demanding Washington explain the charges against her.
"We expect a clear and articulate explanation from Washington" of the charges, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, adding that "criminal cases based on unclear claims" against Russians in the United States have become a "habit" for US justice.
Earlier this week, the Russian lawyer was indicted in a money laundering case, US prosecutors said Tuesday.
Zakharova said it seemed like Washington is out for "revenge" against Veselnitskaya, who is at the center of the Russia scandal rocking the US presidency, after she met with Donald Trump Jr who was seeking to get information on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Trump Jr said nothing came of the meeting as it was focused on adoptions of Russian orphans. Veselnitskaya denied meddling in election issues and said the meeting was a waste of time.
Veselnitskaya was charged with fabricating evidence in a 2013 case the US filed against a Russian company, Prevezon Holdings, which was allegedly involved in a $230 million tax refund fraud scheme in Moscow.
The scheme was exposed by crusading lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by Russian authorities and died in prison in 2009 after he was allegedly denied adequate care for severe health conditions.
Veselnitskaya "is now a wanted person in the United States for intentionally misleading US investigators," said Homeland Security investigator Angel Melendez.
The charge was, at least on the surface, unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
Mueller has focused on the June 9, 2016 meeting, in which Veselnitskaya allegedly offered the Trump campaign dirt on his election rival Hillary Clinton.
The meeting included campaign chair Paul Manafort, Trump's son Donald Jr, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
All have since said that Veselnitskaya had nothing on Clinton for them and sought to discuss other matters. She has denied meddling in election issues.
But Mueller is also reportedly examining whether Trump and his aides obstructed justice in an effort to hide details of the meeting from investigators.
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I thought the charges were pretty tight.