12:27 GMT +326 May 2019
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    Donald Trump Jr., the son of President Donald Trump

    US House Democrats Question Settlement of Fraud Case Handled by Veselnitskaya

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    All 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee in a letter on Wednesday asked US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to explain why the Justice Department settled a fraud case handled by Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of a controversy surrounding Donald Trump Jr.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — "We respectfully request information about the settlement of United States V Prevezon Holdings Ltd., et al. An explanation for your decision to settle just two days before trial was set to begin is long overdue," the lawmakers said in their letter to Sessions.

    Trump Jr. has been mired in controversy since he released private emails on Tuesday confirming that he agreed to meet with Veselnitskaya during his father President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. The emails between Trump Jr. and a publicist show that the president's son believed Veslnitskaya was a lawyer for the Kremlin who was offering to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

    In their letter to Sessions, the lawmakers noted that on May 12, the Justice Department "made an abrupt decision to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney [Veselnitskaya] in the Southern District of New York."

    In the court case, Veselnitskaya defended Denis Katsyv, owner of Prevezon, who was accused of laundering $230 million that he fraudulently obtained from the Russian treasury through his luxury real estate holdings in Manhattan. The Justice Department settled the case for a penalty of less than $6 million.

    The Democrats asked Sessions to reveal whether Veselnitskaya was involved in the settlement negotiations, and whether President Donald Trump or anyone from his transition team contacted the Justice Department about the case.

    They also questioned the attorney general on why the Justice Department settled the case for just $6 million, two days before the trial was scheduled to begin.

    Finally, the lawmakers asked Sessions to reveal whether he discussed the Prevezon case with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak or any other Russian official at any time.

    The Democrats requested that Sessions reply to their query by July 26.

    Veselnitskaya has denied any links with the Kremlin and insists that she never had sensitive information about Clinton, nor any intentions of damaging the former presidential candidate's reputation.

    Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters US coverage of the Veselnitskaya-Trump Jr. scandal is meant to overshadow Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first bilateral meeting. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted Western coverage as "wild" and wondered how meeting with a Russian lawyer could pose a threat to anyone.

    Russia has repeatedly denied interference in the US presidential election and has called such allegations absurd.


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