After Donald Trump Jr. met with Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June of 2016, a meeting where according to Veselnitskaya the junior Trump offered to trade Russia sanctions rollbacks for damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton, the Russian lawyer apparently remained involved with the Trump campaign longer than has been previously revealed.
According to a new report by the Washington Post on January 20, the one-year anniversary of the senior Trump's inauguration, Veselnitskaya actually attended that inauguration as did numerous other Russian VIPs and wealthy industrialists.
The contingent of elite Russians with links to the government of President Vladimir Putin drew the attention of FBI counterintelligence agents, according to the Post report, because several of those Russians already figured in the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign to tip the election in Trump's favor. That FBI investigation, though its existence had been rumored, was not revealed publicly until then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed it in March of 2017, two months after inauguration day.
Whether the 42-year-old Veselnitskaya was, at the time, a subject of the FBI's Russia investigation is not clear. But she became a central figure in the probe — now being run by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — when the Trump Tower meeting was publicly exposed in July of last year. The Trump campaign also sent Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Campaign Manager Paul Manafort to the meeting with Veselnitskaya and at least four other Russians.
That meeting was initiated when Trump Jr. received an email from an acquaintance who represented the Agalarov family, Trump's partners in the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and in the proposed Trump Tower Moscow real estate development.
That email promised that the Russians would deliver "dirt" on Clinton at the meeting, and that the gathering was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
That support was evident in the number of Russians, including Veselnitskaya, who were guests at Trump's inauguration. Veselnitskaya, according to the Post, attended a formal inauguration party hosted by California congressional rep Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican who is reportedly so close to the Russian government that the Russians have assigned him a code name.
During the 2016 election cycle, Rohrabacher traveled to Russia where he met with Veselnitskaya to discuss lifting sanctions against specific Russian oligarchs — sanctions imposed under a law known as the Magnitsky Act.
In the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, according to an interview given by Veselnitskaya herself, Trump Jr. said that if his father were to "come to power" he would revisit the Magnitsky Act sanctions in exchange for damaging information about Clinton.
Rohrabacher may also have played a pivotal role in communicating with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks posted thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign by Russian hackers, a key point in the collusion investigation. But last September, Rohrabacher told the Trump administration that Assange would provide proof that those emails did not, in fact, come from Russian hackers in exchange for a promise not to take legal action against Assange.
Rohrabacher also appears to be friends with far-right British political figure Nigel Farage — they have been photographed fishing together — who was the leading force behind the pro-Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom in 2016. Farage is also pro-Russian and has expressed support for Putin.
Farage also visited Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Assange has been holed up since 2012. According to one report, Farage may have passed Assange a "thumb drive" containing some sort of data during a visit there.
The prevalence of Russian business and Kremlin-linked figures at Trump's inauguration was unusual, according to the Post report. At the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama, no such Russian dignitaries were reportedly in attendance.