Natalia Veselnitskaya, whose meeting with Donald Trump Jr. has triggered a political storm over alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, had attended a 2014 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, where she sat behind former special assistant at National Security Council Michael McFaul.
In a photograph that has surfaced, Veselnitskaya is seen sitting with her head tilted to one side, behind McFaul, who is looking ahead. The picture has since gone viral on social media, leading many to question what the Russian lawyer was doing sitting so close to McFaul.
McFaul has previously worked as ambassador to Russia under the administration of former President Barack Obama. He is a strong anti-Trump advocate who has condemned the president’s foreign policies on his Twitter page. Ever since an alleged collusion was implied between Trump Jr. and the Russians, McFaul has posted a series of tweets insinuating that even high-ranking Trump aides were behind influencing the outcome of the 2016 election.
When the photograph of Veselnitskaya sitting behind him emerged, McFaul defended himself by emphasizing that sitting arrangements at such hearings are not a matter of choice for the experts called upon to testify before the committee. He also proceeded to shut down the gossip mongers by stating he had no knowledge of who Veselnitskaya was or why she chose to sit behind him at the hearing.
Some Twitter users also pointed out the fact that Veselnitskaya must have deliberately chosen the seat behind McFaul since it gave her a perfect view of the laptop screen open in front of McFaul.
When the buzz over the photograph refused to die down, McFaul even released the full transcript of his testimony that he gave at the 2014 HFAC hearing to prove he had nothing to hide.
It is not immediately clear what Veselnitskaya’s agenda was behind attending the hearing, except the fact that the hearing was regarding the terms and conditions that Russia needs to meet in order for the United States to lift the sanctions against it.
According to a Washington Post report, Veselnitskaya has a long history of fighting against the sanctions placed by the U.S. against Russia. Apart from meeting Trump Jr. at the Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 9, 2016, the lawyer also attended several events across Washington and New York within the same week, all of which have raised questions of whether more members of the Trump campaign had secret encounters with her.
Veselnitskaya runs her own law firm, Kamerton Consulting, which handles corporate and property conflicts. The lawyer told Washington Post her client-base mainly consists of “large state-owned and private corporations, as well as clients from the real estate and banking sectors.”
Veselnitskaya has worked for Russian-owned company called Prevezon Holdings, which was sued in a money-laundering case in New York’s Southern District, which brought her to New York amidst the 2016 election when President Donald Trump was still a Republican candidate trying to beat his democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
While trying to defend her corporate clients, Veselnitskaya also began to advocate for lifting economic sanctions against Russia by the U.S. government for human rights violations.