A week ago, Natalia Veselnitskaya was just a Russian lawyer with a really difficult last name to pronounce. Now Veselnitskaya is at the center of a Russia-White House scandal, and it still doesn’t make her last name any easier to say aloud.
Depending on whom you believe—the lie trapped inside the fib, which is trapped inside the whopper, which is trapped inside the tall tale that is the Trump administration; or the Russian lawyer with the last name from hell with nothing to gain—is where you land with this story.
Here is what we know to be fact: On June 9, 2016, just two days after Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower. The meeting was arranged by music manager Rob Goldstone, who is a friend of the Trumps. Everything beyond that is a rousing game of he said, she said.
According to a statement released by Trump Jr., the least talented of the Trump offspring, he claims that he took the meeting believing that Veselnitskaya was going to provide intel that the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton were being financed by the Russians. Trump Jr. also claims that the meeting didn’t provide any information about Clinton and instead turned into a diatribe on Russian adoptions.
Now, in an interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya claims that she never said that she would provide dirt on the then-Democratic nominee for president, and only planned to discuss U.S. sanctions on Russian officials.
“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton,” Veselnitskaya told NBC News in an interview in Moscow. “It was never my intention to have that.
“It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information,” she continued. “They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”
Veselnitskaya also denied that she had any connection to the Kremlin.
Here is how the international game of telephone may have taken a turn. Veselnitskaya, who is a noted advocate against human rights violations in Russia, explained to NBC News that she’d worked for “years to question the case that prompted the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russian officials accused of human rights violations, known as the Magnitsky Act. These sanctions led the Kremlin to ban the adoption of Russian children by Americans at the end of 2012.”
Part of the information she’d collected noted that a company run by a former U.S. citizen didn’t pay taxes in the U.S. or Russia and may have also donated to the Democratic National Committee.
It is this portion that Veselnitskaya said she believes piqued Trump Jr.’s interest. In fact, she said that he asked only one question during their meeting.
“The question that I was asked was as follows: whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources,” she said, NBC News reports.
Veselnitskaya claims that she never asked for a meeting with Trump Jr., and only sought to spread word on “the real circumstances behind the Magnitsky Act,” NBC News reports.
Veselnitskaya also added that the past few days since the initial story broke haven’t been the best days of her life.
“Imagine yourself in my shoes. One morning you wake up, and all of a sudden you are the focus of all the high-ranking, upstream media of the world,” she said.
“To summarize, those were not the happiest days of my life, I have to say. I have to break up my holiday,” she said. “I have to take a trip back to Moscow, because I just wanted to be able to answer the questions myself.”
Read more at NBC News.