Shadowy company tied to Russia meeting linked to Trump Jr. troubles

Was Donald Trump Jr.‘s controversial meeting criminal?

Donald Trump Jr.‘s meet­ing with Russian attor­ney more than just a per­cep­tion prob­lem for the White House? The debate heats up on ‘The Fox News Specialists’

Fusion GPS, the oppo­si­tion research firm behind the infa­mous and unver­i­fied Trump “dossier,” was also close­ly tied to a wide-rang­ing Moscow effort to under­mine U.S. sanc­tions against the Putin regime led by the lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. last year.

The com­pa­ny, found­ed in 2010 by for­mer Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, is named in a com­plaint that has had inter­na­tion­al impli­ca­tions. It was filed by Hermitage Capital Management, run by Bill Browder, who was Russia’s top invest­ment man­ag­er before his deal­ings there encoun­tered tragedy, and ulti­mate­ly result­ed in the cur­rent wide-rang­ing U.S. sanc­tions against top Putin officials.

Attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr. in June 2016, was work­ing for a Cyprus-based real estate hold­ings com­pa­ny called Prevezon, run by Denis Katsyv, son of Pyotr Katsyv, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s clos­est advis­ers. She was giv­en “unlim­it­ed resources” by the Kremlin-con­nect­ed group to run a cam­paign to get the Magnitsky Act repealed, Browder told Fox News.

The idea was dis­cred­it your oppo­nent. It was essen­tial­ly a coup attempt by PR.” — Christopher Davidson of Durham University

The Magnitsky Act is named after Browder’s for­mer attor­ney Sergei Magnitsky, who was beat­en to death in a Moscow prison after accus­ing Russian author­i­ties of steal­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars through tax refunds and then laun­der­ing the mon­ey through New York banks. The scheme was alleged­ly run by Prevezon Holdings, whose attor­ney Veselnitskaya was work­ing to get the sanc­tions reversed.

They were try­ing to com­plete­ly change the nar­ra­tive of what hap­pened to Sergei. Their objec­tive was to have the  Magnitsky Act repealed,” Browder said. “They can’t change the truth of what hap­pened to a man who was mur­dered in order to achieve some sort of polit­i­cal objective.”

Browder told Fox News that Simpson was retained by Prevezon Holdings via a law firm, BakerHostetler, for his exper­tise and con­tacts with the Washington and New York media. That law firm had rep­re­sent­ed Simpson on pri­or cas­es, and the Russians looked to it for legal help as well as lob­by­ing access to Capitol Hill.

Others involved were a Washington-based group called Potomac Square, run by anoth­er for­mer Wall Street Journal reporter, Chris Cooper, as well as a D.C.-based lob­by­ist sus­pect­ed of ties to Russian intel­li­gence, Rinat Akhmetshin.

According to lob­by­ing dis­clo­sures reviewed by Fox News, Akhmetshin found­ed a group called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation. The group’s web­site is large­ly “under con­struc­tion.” Denis Katsyv, whose father runs Prevezon Holdings, appears on the lob­by­ing dis­clo­sure form.

Akhmetshin had led the way in get­ting a movie that attempt­ed to influ­ence pub­lic and offi­cial opin­ion about the Magnitsky Act shown at Washington’s respect­ed Newseum on June 13, 2016. Several screen­ings of the movie had been can­celed in Europe because it was a “crude attempt to smear Magnitsky and Browder,” accord­ing to a report by Radio Free Europe.

Akhmetshin told RFE that Potomac Square Group, which had cir­cu­lat­ed news arti­cles crit­i­cal of Browder to reporters, paid for the event with the expec­ta­tion of being reim­bursed by his foundation.

As for Simpson, he was “using all of his media con­tacts to get a smear cam­paign going against Magnitsky and myself,” Browder said. “He also seems to be able to get arti­cles stopped. Simpson has unusu­al influ­ence because he was often a big  source to these reporters on oth­er stories.”

Around the same time in June 2016, Veselnitskaya scored her meet­ing with Donald Trump Jr. after lur­ing him in with emails indi­cat­ing there was “dirt” on for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hillary Clinton. “Veselnitskaya prob­a­bly tried 12 dif­fer­ent angles to get to Trump and also to Clinton for that mat­ter,” Browder said. “She had every pos­si­ble incen­tive to get to both sides” since her goal was to get the Magnitsky Act repealed, and appar­ent­ly not to influ­ence the U.S. election.

Meanwhile, accord­ing to Browder, attor­neys from BakerHostetler were brief­ing the House Foreign Affairs Committee on their “false nar­ra­tive” on Magnitsky.

In a com­pa­ny state­ment, an offi­cial con­firmed the rela­tion­ship. “Fusion GPS was engaged by a U.S. law firm, BakerHostetler, to per­form pub­lic records lit­i­ga­tion sup­port in a U.S. asset seizure case, U.S. v Prevezon,” the state­ment read. “Its work is a mat­ter of pub­lic record. Fusion GPS is not a lob­by­ing firm and engaged in no lob­by­ing in this case. Any sug­ges­tion to the con­trary is entire­ly false.”

But as Browder points out, Fusion was pro­vid­ing media influ­ence, rather than lob­by­ing work on Capitol Hill.

In its state­ment, Fusion said it had noth­ing to do with the Trump Jr. meeting.

Fusion GPS learned about this meet­ing from news reports and had no pri­or knowl­edge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facil­i­tat­ed this meet­ing in any way is absolute­ly false,” the state­ment read.

There is also no evi­dence that the work Fusion did for Prevezon Holdings and the Russians was relat­ed to the Trump “dossier,” which was craft­ed by a for­mer MI‑6 agent named Christopher Steele and made var­i­ous sor­did and still uncor­rob­o­rat­ed alle­ga­tions about President Donald Trump.

However, Browder spec­u­lates that it is pos­si­ble Simpson’s work with the Russian lob­by­ist, and pos­si­ble spy, Akhmetshin, on the Prevezon case may have facil­i­tat­ed his work on the Trump “dossier.”

Most experts believe the “dossier” was com­mis­sioned by Trump’s domes­tic polit­i­cal ene­mies, pos­si­bly even Republicans.

Akhmetshin “is effec­tive­ly a Russian spy in close con­tact with Simpson,” said Browder. “He could have eas­i­ly fed some mis­in­for­ma­tion into the dossier” regard­less who was pay­ing for it.

Browder filed a com­plaint with the Justice Department against Simpson, Akhmetshin, Potomac Square, BakerHostetler, Veselnitskaya and oth­ers last July. He met with DOJ lawyers in Washington, “and that was the last time I ever heard from them.”

As for Fusion GPS, its work with Prevezon mir­rored in cer­tain ways what it did for oth­er clients. For exam­ple, Simpson and a promi­nent Democratic group called California Strategies teamed up on a PR cam­paign in 2010 for an exiled United Arab Emirates sheikh that involved a 37-page dossier, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and oth­er media and adver­tis­ing efforts.

The Guardian news­pa­per report­ed that, “oth­er tac­tics explored and employed ranged from rak­ing up a sex scan­dal … and meet­ing Hillary Clinton on vis­its to Washington.”

It was war through PR,” said Christopher Davidson of Durham University. “The idea was dis­cred­it your oppo­nent. It was essen­tial­ly a coup attempt by PR. The cam­paign was very exten­sive.  It was a new type of coup.”

Bottom line: Simpson is very secre­tive.  He is for hire,” said bil­lion­aire Idaho busi­ness­man Frank VanderSloot, whose sup­port for for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mitt Romney land­ed him on Simpson’s radar in 2012.

Simpson asked a Democratic oper­a­tive to dig up dirt on VanderSloot. “His busi­ness mod­el is, ‘Do you want to destroy somebody’s life or somebody’s busi­ness? OK, I will destroy his life if you pay me enough.’ His job is to destroy the tar­get by dig­ging up dirt and get­ting that dirt published.”

In a dec­la­ra­tion to the D.C. Superior Court that was hear­ing VanderSloot’s case in 2014, Simpson wrote, “Regardless of the assign­ment, Fusion GPS’s clients demand that we main­tain their iden­ti­ty, and the nature of their request, as con­fi­den­tial. Many, if not most, of Fusion GPS’s clients would not engage our ser­vices if they believed that we would dis­close their iden­ti­ty, or the nature of the research that we pro­vid­ed them.”

Efforts to reach Glenn Simpson, Akhmetshin, Veselnitskaya and BakerHostetler for this report were unsuc­cess­ful, and the Department of Justice would not com­ment on Browder’s complaint.

By Christopher WallaceAlex DiazJason Kopp,| Fox News