Reuters: The Moscow lawyer who met with Don Jr. to discuss "adoptions" represented Russian spy agency for years https://t.co/V9E2Pfqk7q
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) July 21, 2017
Breaking: Russian court records reveal Russian lawyer who met w/Donald Trump Jr represented Russian military unit tied to security service
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) July 21, 2017
But according to Russian-born ace reporter Julia Ioffe, from inside the Kremlin kleptocracy, it’s not that simple:
The Russian lawyer Trump Jr met with once worked with the FSB. But what does that mean? I explain: https://t.co/KbhTG8QBXw
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) July 21, 2017
… [T]he actual story says something very different about Veselnitskaya and the work she did for the FSB from 2005 to 2013. “The documents show that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, successfully represented the FSB’s interests in a legal wrangle over ownership of an upscale property in northwest Moscow between 2005 and 2013,” it says. The work, according to the story, concerned a real-estate dispute in which Veselnitskaya helped the FSB wrest ownership of a valuable building from a private company by alleging that the original sale was based on fraudulent documents.
This is a classic technique used in Russia to raid businesses and extort property owners, and it is a tactic at which both Veselnitskaya and the FSB excel. Veselnitskaya is currently going after IKEA in Russia, on behalf of a private client, using the same legal tactic—the land it sits on is extremely valuable—and the FSB has built an empire in the same way, making minigarchs out of rank-and-file FSB officers whose salaries don’t square with the posh lifestyles they lead.
Under Putin’s leadership, first as FSB head in the 1990s, and then as president of Russia, the FSB has become not just a seat of political and geopolitical power, but also a powerful economic empire. With the specter of state violence and the courts at their backs, officers of the FSB, as well as other security services agencies, have expropriated thousands of small and medium businesses, seized land, run protection rackets, embezzled state funds, and employed every trick under the sun to enrich themselves…
In other words, the Reuters story is not about espionage but about corruption. It fills in a portrait of Veselnitskaya as well as her connections to the organs of the Russian state, and the methods by which she operated. But it is yet another example of how American readers, frenzied by the drip-drip of Trump-Russia revelations, can take a bit of information, tear it out of its context, strip it of its real meaning, and run with it toward all kinds of political conclusions about the administration’s dealings with Russia. There is plenty of damning information out there, but this particular story isn’t damning quite in the way some people want it to be.
And yet it’s understandable that Donald Trump would be enchanted by the idea recreating such a kleptocracy here in America… and how the leaders of the GOP would be only too glad to assist him.