Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed by former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to enter the United States without a visa, permitting her to lobby President Donald Trump’s campaign officials and others in Washington in 2016.
Veselnitskaya was cleared by the Justice Department to enter the U.S. under “extraordinary circumstances,” though her reason for being is the country is now under scrutiny.
The Moscow lawyer had initially been turned down for a visa to enter the U.S. lawfully, but then was granted special immigration parole due to the intervention of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
According to officials, Lynch granted her approval for the limited purpose of helping a company owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, her client, defend itself against a Justice Department asset forfeiture case in federal court in New York City.
Veselnitskaya then used the U.S. immigration system to enter the country and engage in nonofficial business. Such business included her meeting with Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and now-White House senior adviser Jared Kushner in New York City last June.
Five days after that meeting, Veselnitskaya was captured on video, sitting in the front row at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia policy.
Veselnitskaya was also seen at a movie screening at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The film questioned the Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions against Russia for violations of human and political rights and is opposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Veselnitskaya appeared at a Capitol Hill dinner where Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and approximately 20 other guests discussed the film and Russian policy.
On Wednesday, Rohrabacher said he believed Veselnitskaya was there to lobby other legislators about reversing the law so Americans would again be allowed to adopt Russian children.
The explanation regarding Veselnitskaya’s allowance in the U.S. was requested by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Trump administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, requesting that they provide a credible reason on why Veselnitskaya was permitted to remain in the country when, according to court documents, she was required to leave in early 2016.
She was also seen at an anti-Trump rally and posted a picture of Sen. John McCain’s office.
Lynch has yet to publicly comment on the matter.
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