James Comey’s friend, Columbia University professor Daniel Richman, leaked classified information that Comey gave him. During this leaking period, Richman was apartment-building neighbors with a partner at the law firm that strategized with Fusion GPS operative Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian plant who set up Don Jr. in Trump Tower.
“Yes, he is my neighbor,” Amy Wenzel, a partner at Cozen O’Connor, confirmed in a phone conversation with Big League Politics, confirming that they spoke. They live near each other in a Brooklyn high-rise.
Cozen O’Connor managing partner Howard Schweitzer is listed here on a DOJ form from an investigation into the breaking of lobbying laws by Russians trying to repeal the Magnitsky Act — which was just a front to get Russians in the room with Don Jr. It turns out that Natalia Veselnitskaya was actually operating out of the Cozen O’Connor offices.
Akhmetshin was a controversial figure. In a letter this spring to U.S. government officials, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) described Akhmetshin as a person who “apparently has ties to Russian intelligence.”
Akhmetshin said he never worked as an intelligence agent, but he did say he was drafted as a teenager and served for two years in a unit of the Soviet military that had responsibility for law enforcement issues as well as some counterintelligence matters. He immigrated to the United States in 1993 and gained citizenship in 2009.
“I was not an intelligence officer. Never,” he said.
In the spring of 2016, as the presidential race was heating up, Akhmetshin and lobbyists he hired sought meetings on Capitol Hill to make their case against the sanctions law. Akhmetshin hired former Democratic congressman Ron Dellums, along with a team of lobbyists from the law firm of Cozen O’Connor.
Steve Pruitt, a business colleague speaking on Dellums’s behalf, said his involvement was brief and ended when he determined that Congress was unlikely to change the law.
In June, after visiting Trump Tower in New York, Veselnitskaya came to Washington to lend a hand in the lobbying effort.
She attended a meeting of the team at the downtown offices of Cozen O’Connor, where she spoke at length in Russian about the issues but confused many in the room, who had not been told previously about her involvement, according to several participants.
A spokesman for Cozen said the firm had been hired by the nonprofit. But in a statement, the firm said that the role and involvement of the Russian lawyer was “not at all clear.”
While Veselnitskaya was not allowed to testify in Congress, she did secure a prime, front-row seat for a June 14 hearing in the House on Russia-related issues.
Her high-profile spot in the room gained notice this week with the circulation of a photo in which she looms over the shoulder of former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, an adviser to President Barack Obama and a witness before the panel. Some conservative blogs this week have said the photo suggests she had accompanied McFaul and was a Democratic plant.
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