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Before this week, few people in Russia — let alone the United States — had heard of Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of a controversial meeting last year with President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.
She is listed as a managing partner in a Moscow law firm called Kamerton Consulting.
But her work took her to the United States and placed her in the middle of a dispute between the U.S. and Russian governments over the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress in 2012 to blacklist Russians suspected of human rights abuses.
It was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who had accused Russian officials of financial crimes and later died in prison, where he was being held on charges of tax evasion. Prison officials said he had a heart attack, but a human rights council investigation said he died after being beaten and denied medical care.
Russia retaliated by banning American adoptions of Russian children.
Veselnitskaya became a fierce critic of the Magnitsky Act, aligning her with the Kremlin.
One of her clients was Denis Katsyv, the Russian owner of Cyprus-based Prevezon Holdings, which a U.S. court said laundered millions of dollars in New York real estate using proceeds linked to a $230-million Russian tax-fraud scheme. Magnitsky had investigated the complicated tax-fraud scheme before his arrest in Russia. A U.S. civil case against Katsyv was settled in May for $6 million.
Veselnitskaya is also the founder of a nonprofit called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to restoring American adoptions of Russian orphans. In June 2016 at the Newseum in Washington, her group helped fund a controversial screening of a film aimed at discrediting Magnitsky.
That same month, Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Jr. as well as Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Trump Jr. said that he agreed to meet the lawyer at Trump Tower after she promised damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton but that it quickly became clear she had no useful information and really was there to lobby against the Magnitsky Act.
The Kremlin denied knowing Veselnitskaya.
“We cannot track down all movements of all Russian lawyers, both within Russia and abroad,” said Dmitry Peskov, the official Kremlin spokesman.
Veselnitskaya spoke to NBC News about the meeting, saying it was never her intention to hand over damaging information about Clinton.
7:08 a.m.: This article was updated with a comment from Veselnitskaya to NBC News.
This article was originally published at 6:51 a.m.