By: Aaron Klein
TEL AVIV — A leaked email from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign previously published by Wikileaks may take on new significance because it relates to key issues brought up in media reports about Donald Trump Jr. and a meeting with a Russian lawyer.
The email in question was purportedly sent by Jesse Lehrich, a Clinton campaign foreign policy spokesman and member of the campaign’s rapid response communications team.
In the correspondence, which has not yet received news media attention and remains searchable in the WikiLeaks archive, Lehrich writes that the campaign “killed a Bloomberg story” attempting to link Clinton’s opposition to the anti-Russia legislation known as the Magnitsky Act to a speech that Bill Clinton delivered in Moscow for $500,000.
The May 21, 2015 message, titled, “May 21st Nightly Press Traffic Summary,” was purportedly sent by Lehrich to the campaign’s “HRCRapid” Google group, and was captured by the leaking of campaign chairman John Podesta’s Gmail account emails.
Lehrich’s list of press actions carried out by the campaign included this:
With the help of the research team, we killed a Bloomberg story trying to link HRC’s opposition to the Magnitsky bill to a $500,000 speech that WJC gave in Moscow.
Based on Peter Schweizer’s bestselling book Clinton Cash, the New York Times in April 2015 reported on Clinton’s $500,000 speech in Moscow and its possible ties to a deal in which the Russians gradually assumed control of the Uranium One mining company.
The newspaper reported “the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States.”
The newspaper further reported:
Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
The Magnitsky Act, strongly opposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is intended to sanction Russian officials accused of involvement in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, an anti-corruption whistleblower who died in prison, allegedly after being beaten.
As Foreign Policy magazine noted, the Obama administration – with Clinton as secretary of state – initially balked in 2010 when Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Magnitsky bill, fearing the legislation could harm the much touted “reset” attempt between the U.S. and Moscow.
Clinton helped lead the charge against the bill, the magazine reported. “The administration, starting with Hillary Clinton and then John Kerry, did everything they could do to stop the Magnitsky act,” said American hedge fund manager Bill Browder, who was instrumental in lobbying Congress in favor of the bill.
In a piece titled, “Hillary Clinton forgets her part in a disastrous Russia policy,” Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin referred to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, asking, “Why did the State Department try to block the Magnitsky Act for so long?”
In 2012, the bill was passed when powerful lawmakers demanded the Magnitsky Act be grouped with the administration’s legislative push to repeal the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a move that would ease U.S.-Russia trade relations because the law denied Moscow the ability to trade normally with the U.S.
On June 20, 2012, Clinton wrote an oped in the Wall Street Journal titled “Trade With Russia Is a Win-Win,” in which she sought to explain that retaining Jackson-Vanik “only fuels more anti-American sentiment in Russia.”
“Russia’s membership in the WTO (World Trade Organization) will soon be a fact of life,” she stated. “Failing to extend permanent normal trading relations will not penalize Russia, nor will it provide a lever with which to change Moscow’s behavior.”
In the oped, Clinton referred to Magnitsky’s death and wrote, “We are continuing to work with Congress on addressing these issues.”
Despite the questions raised about Clinton’s initial opposition to the Magnitsky Act, her actions to ease trade restrictions on Russia, and her husband’s ties to entities close to the Uranium One deal, former Clinton Campaign Press Secretary Brian Fallon took to CNN on Tuesday to accuse President Trump of enacting foreign policy toward Russia that may be “part of a quid pro quo based on help that was provided during the campaign.” No evidence has emerged of any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Magnitsky legislation, meanwhile, has been in the news cycle over the past few days in regard to the story about Trump Jr. and his meeting with a Russian lawyer.
The issue emerged on Saturday when the New York Times published an exclusive story citing “confidential government records described to the New York Times” alleging that Trump Jr. arranged a meeting at Trump Tower two weeks after Trump secured the Republican nomination with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney who, the newspaper claimed, “has connections to the Kremlin.”
The Times subsequently published what it says are the contents of correspondence indicating that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was set up by third parties who claimed that Veselnitskaya had dirt on Clinton. It would not be abnormal for a political campaign to take a meeting with an individual claiming to have compromising information on an opponent.
Instead of providing dirt on Clinton, Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya used the time to complain about the Magnitsky Act.
“The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official,” Trump Jr. said in a statement on Tuesday. “And as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act. To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was ‘the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.’”
In an interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya denied that she is connected to the Kremlin.
Trump Jr. subsequently released a chain of emails that showed how the meeting was set up.