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- Former NFL player Rosey Grier has dropped out of the race for California governor
- Angered by his decision to block a bill on single-payer healthcare, a group of activists has launched an effort to recall Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon from office.
- Rohrabacher faces hostile crowd during panel about Russia and Trump at Politicon in Pasadena
- How 2018 could be the year of the rookie in California's pivotal congressional races
A former Soviet military counterintelligence officer who met with President Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign manager in June 2016 had previously lobbied Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) at least twice about U.S. relations with Russia.
News broke Friday that Rinat Akhmetshin, who received U.S. citizenship and became a Washington lobbyist after emigrating from Russia more than a decade ago, was also present at the Trump Tower meeting with campaign officials and Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. The New York Times first reported the news about the meeting aimed at potential negative information about Hillary Clinton.
Several outlets have reported on Akhmetshin's past lobbying of Rohrabacher to help remove Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s name from a global anti-corruption law. Magnitsky was a whistleblower who alleged that officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government stole $230 million. He died in prison under suspicious circumstances.
The Magnitsky Act banned officials alleged to be involved in his death from visiting the United States and from using U.S. banks. In response, Putin banned all adoptions of Russian children by U.S. parents. Akhmetshin lobbies for Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative, a group started by Veselnitskaya reportedly to lift the adoption ban.
Rohrabacher has long been known for encouraging improved relations with Russia, something that's made him an outlier in the Republican Party.
He has said as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, he gathers information from a variety of sources and then weighs its accuracy.
He once described Akhmetshin to CNN as someone with "an ulterior motive" who is "involved with people who've got an agenda." He also said he could not rule it out that Akhmetshin was still connected to the Russian security services, something the former official has denied.
Rohrabacher defended the Trump campaign's meeting in a speech on the House floor Friday.
"If someone says to you that they want to give you information, there is nothing wrong with that," Rohrabacher said. "It is not illegal to receive information from someone, especially if you are engaged in an activity that's aimed at trying to secure understanding for policies that you plan to implement as a leader in the United States. Absolutely, there is nothing wrong."
Rohrabacher's opinions on normalizing relations with Russia have been known for decades, and several opponents have tried to make them a campaign issue without much luck.
His district backed Clinton for president in 2018, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and his opponents have attacked him over the news of his meetings with various people related to Russia or the Baltic states.