A Russian deputy attorney general, who is thought to have directed Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in her efforts abroad on behalf of Russia’s government, reportedly died Wednesday night in a helicopter crash.
The Daily Beast reported that Saak Albertovich Karapetyan was aboard an unauthorized helicopter flight, which crashed near the village of Vonyshevo, outside of Moscow.
Karapetyan was reportedly behind Veselnitskaya’s global efforts to lobby lawmakers to overturn anti-corruption acts such as the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which passed in 2012. The U.S. legislation is similar to others around the world which commemorate Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died while trying to expose a $230 million fraud scheme in Russia. The acts have reportedly incensed Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Daily Beast reported that Karapetyan signed a letter sent on behalf of Russia’s government to a U.S. court in 2014 refusing assistance into an investigation concerning Magnitsky’s death. The letter was drafted reportedly with aid from Veselnitskaya.
Two years later, Veselnitskaya was involved in a meeting with President Trump‘s son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort at Trump Tower. The meeting, which occurred during the 2016 presidential election, was reportedly set up under the presumption that Veselnitskaya would present damaging information on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to the Trump campaign.
Trump Jr. has maintained publicly that the meeting was a “waste of time,” stating that the meeting was focused on Russian adoption policy.
Veselnitskaya, however, has said publicly that the two discussed the Magnitsky Act during the meeting, alleging that Trump Jr. pledged to look into the issue after his father assumed office.
“[I]f we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it. I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it,” she recalled Trump Jr. saying, speaking in an interview with Bloomberg News.
The meeting has come under intense scrutiny in special counsel Robert Mueller‘s ongoing investigation, which is seeking to determine if members of then-candidate Trump’s campaign knowingly colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
Trump Jr. and other members of his father’s campaign and administration have repeatedly denied having any ties to Russia during the election.