Sean Hannity’s name may rhyme with sanity, but Donald Trump’s favorite Fox has never been the poster boy for rationality. As the dominoes have started falling ever faster in the Trump–Russia scandal, Hannity has been bouncing all over the place in a storm of twisted logic, misplaced sarcasm, and desperate attempts at misdirection. But in the middle of this Hanni-cane, he actually dropped a line that’s ... interesting.
"Why did the Obama administration let [the lawyer] into the country in 2016?" he asked.
Good question. And there’s a good answer.
Natalia Veselnitskaya did not mark up her visa application with “coming to America to give Donald Trump high-level information straight from the Kremlin.” Which, considering the stealth that Trump Junior displayed at the other end of the pipeline, is really rather surprising. Instead, Veselnitskaya’s official reason for coming to the United States really did have to do with the Magnitsky Act. Not lobbying against the act, but acting as an attorney in a lawsuit against a Russian company accused of money-laundering for the mob.
The specific case in question here is against Prevezon Holdings Ltd., a Cyprus-registered company.
How did Prevezon Holding supposedly move mob money into the United States? By snapping up expensive condos and other real estate. And who was it that Veselnitskaya had come to fight after she made her pitch to Donald Trump Junior?
U. S. District Attorney Preet Bharara.
In March, Donald Trump fired Bharara even though he had previously assured the US attorney that he would be staying to complete current cases.
Mr. Bharara was a highly public prosecutor who relished the spotlight throughout more than seven years in office. He pursued several high-profile cases involving Wall Street, and he was in the midst of investigating fund-raising by Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, and preparing to try former top aides to the governor of New York, Andrew M. Cuomo, who are both Democrats. It was not immediately clear how his departure would affect those cases and others that were pending.
But Trump’s desire to get Bharara out of his office was unlikely to have anything to do with his willingness to go after Democratic targets as well as those on the right. Before his firing, Trump tried to make the same moves to secure the attorney’s loyalty that he had also made toward former FBI director James Comey.
“It appeared to be that he was trying to cultivate some kind of relationship [with me],” he told George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, citing several chummy phone calls that Trump tried to initiate with him. “It’s a very weird and peculiar thing for a one-on-one conversation without the attorney general, without warning, between the president and me or any United States attorney who has been asked to investigate various things and is in a position hypothetically to investigate business interests and associates of the president.”
But Donald Trump’s personal attorney has openly bragged that he was the one who told Trump to sack Bharara … for a very specific reason.
According to four sources that spoke to ProPublica, Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer and his primary counsel on matters related to the Russia investigation, had bragged that he was largely responsible for getting the U.S. attorney for New York's Southern District fired. “This guy is going to get you,” Kasowitz recalled saying to Trump, according to one of the sources.
The connection between Bharara’s cases and Trump–Russia wasn’t immediately obvious. But Bharara hinted heavily that he had been ousted to close down a investigation of corruption related to Trump.
Until now, the case didn’t seem to be a peek into corruption inside the Trump regime. But with the spotlight now falling on Natalia Veselnitskaya, the actions of Prevezon Holdings Ltd are coming squarely to the center. Prevezon appears to be yet another holding company created expressly for the purpose of turning Russian mob money into American real estate in deals that allow oligarchs to clean their stolen funds and US real estate moguls to pocket fat profits. Deals exactly like those Trump is known to have used to escape bankruptcy.
When Donald Trump Jr. says that Veselnitskaya came to his office to discuss “adoption,” what he means is that she wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act. And that discussion not only reflects on the US sanctions and blacklisting of Russian officials that resulted from the act, it directly plays into the Russian use of US real estate for money-laundering. Which was something Trump Jr. knew very, very well.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
So even the part of the conversation that Donald Trump Jr. has been passing off as “inane nonsense” was actually directly related to his business, and directly related to an investigation that Trump was anxious to see closed.
One more thing. No matter how many times Trump Jr. pretended to not know who Veselnitskaya was in his statements ...
Emin Agalarov was more than just someone Trump Jr. had met during the Miss Universe pageant. He was a key contact for the Trump Organization, and their partner on potential deals in Moscow. Natalia Veselnitskaya was also clearly someone other than the nameless woman who showed up to give Trump Jr. a talk he didn’t want to hear. Both of them go right back to the core of Trump’s business—which was money laundering.
If all of this is making the world seem pretty small … it’s because it’s all connected. And the center of that connection is Donald Trump.