WASHINGTON, July 21, 2017 — The never-ending Russia fake-news saga continues, and it’s getting damned boring. But the tasty threads, bits, pieces and chunks of hypocrisy that keep floating to the top are still somewhat amusing for anyone still tuning in to the grim fairy tales the news media are offering.
The most recent outrage revolves around the misadventures of Russian legal ingenue Natalia Veselnitskaya. She wormed her way into a meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. last summer, allegedly promising some tempting opposition research on the Clinton campaign.
But when Veselnitskaya showed up for the meeting, that promised info on the Clinton operation proved to be the old “bait and switch” routine. Veselnitskaya needed an excuse to see the younger Trump to discuss Russian concerns about the Magnitsky Act, and probably hoped her phony pitch would get her in the door.
It did. But Trump Jr. quickly smelled a rat and ended the meeting.
In 2008, 36 year-old Russian attorney and auditor Sergei Magnitsky discovered that a group of Russian officials had stolen $230 million from a foreign company, Hermitage Capital Management. Magnitsky had been hired by the firm’s American founder and CEO William Browder, who has said that Magnitsky conclusively proved that Russian individuals and government officials collaborated with Russian criminal elements to engineer the complex theft.
As a reward for his meticulous detective work, Magnitsky was arrested. Plagued with serious health issues, he died in prison in November, 2009, his death very likely due to deliberate medical neglect by Russian officials.
Disgusted that the responsible parties were never held accountable either for the massive theft or for Magnitsky’s death, Magnitsky’s friends turned to the West to seek justice.
Rising Congressional outrage over the incident resulted in the bipartisan Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and officials designated as human-rights abusers. The act, which prohibits those individuals and officials from traveling to the U.S., owning property in the U.S., or holding U.S. bank accounts, was signed into law by President Obama in late 2012.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the Magnitsky Act as “unfriendly,” pledging that it would get an “adequate” response from Russian lawmakers. Russia’s retaliation against the U.S. included ending American adoptions of Russian orphans. In a tit-for-tat move, Russia also banned 18 U.S. officials from entering Russia.
For orphaned Russian children, the Russian retaliation is nothing short of a human tragedy. Thousands of Russian children who could have been adopted into loving American homes, including many who suffer from disabilities, have been condemned to languish in orphanages that are often little more than warehouses. Estimates put the number of children in Russian orphanages at over 100,000, and 10,000 children aged 16 or 17 are booted out of the orphanages every year to fend for themselves.
The Magnitsky Act remains in force today, as does Russia’s retaliatory response. Whether secretly working for the Russian government or not, it is clear that Veselnitskaya was using the opposition research carrot to gain Trump Jr.’s ear on this longstanding issue.
That Trump was tricked into meeting with Veselnitskaya with promises of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton is not the issue. Nor is the fact that he did not report this nothing-burger meeting to the FBI or his father.
What if Trump had called then-FBI Director James Comey to inform him he’d met with a lawyer from Russia who wanted to discuss international adoption issues? Would anyone have cared?
Questions remain about the Trump-Veselnitskaya meeting, but there is no evidence that a crime was committed. But there are no maybes concerning the documented connections between Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and the Clinton Foundation with Russian officials.
“If you want to talk about having relationships with Russia, I’d look no further than the Clintons,” said Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a press briefing last week. “Bill Clinton was paid half a million dollars to give a speech to a Russian bank, [and was] personally thanked by President Putin.”
Mrs. Clinton’s ethics disclosure form, filed while she was Secretary of State, confirms that former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for headlining a Q&A meeting with employees and guests attending this event, which was held by the same Russia-based banking and finance firm implicated in the Magnitsky scandal—Renaissance Capital—on June 29, 2010.
According to the Wall Street Journal, after his June 2010 appearance at this event,
“…Mr. Clinton received a personal thank-you call from Vladimir Putin, then the Russian prime minister, the government news agency TASS reported.”
According to a recent article in The Observer, “William Browder, who had originally hired Mr. Magnitsky, alleged that the accountant had turned up evidence that Renaissance officials, among others, participated in the fraud.”
Even more interesting: When Hillary Clinton was still secretary of state, she actively opposed the Magnitsky legislation.
Among the barrage of emails released by Wikileaks in 2016 is a May, 2015 message from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta:
“With the help of the research team, we killed a Bloomberg story trying to link HRC’s [Hillary Rodham Clinton’s] opposition to the Magnitsky bill [to] a $500,000 speech that WJC [William Jefferson Clinton] gave in Moscow.”
Renaissance Capital, the company that cut that half-million dollar check to Bill Clinton, was in fact implicated in the scandal that spurred passage of the Magnitsky Act, the bill that imposed sanctions on Russians designated as human-rights abusers.
In addition, prior to Bill Clinton’s 2010 speech in Russia, members of Congress had asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to refuse the granting of visas to Russian officials implicated in the growing scandal. The State Department denied their request.
Although President Obama later signed the Magnitsky Act, the Obama administration was internally opposed to the Act because Obama did not want to worsen the still-growing political gap between the two countries.
Considering that Renaissance Capital’s Russian executives would ultimately be banned from the U.S. under the Magnitsky Act, Clinton’s June 2010 speech to Renaissance, delivered not long after Magnitsky’s death, is a more than a little suspect.