Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Thursday distanced herself from the Russian lawyer that gained passage into the U.S. before landing a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign.
At a press conference in France earlier Thursday, President Donald Trump blamed the Obama administration and Lynch’s Justice Department for allowing Natalia Veselnitskaya into the country, The Hill reports.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Lynch said the former attorney general “does not have any personal knowledge of Ms. Veselnitskaya’s travel.” In his remarks in France, Trump appeared to cite a report in The Hill that the Justice Department issued Veselnitskaya a special immigration waiver so that she could defend her client, a Russian firm, in an asset forfeiture case in New York.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in New York told The Hill that it let Veselnitskaya into the country on a grant of immigration parole from October 2015 to early January 2016 after her initial request for a visa had been denied.
Court records show that when Veselnitskaya sought permission to extend her stay, the U.S. attorney at the hearing told the judge that the special visa the Russian lawyer received was part of a “discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances.”
The U.S. attorney described the grant of parole immigration as extremely rare.
“In October the government bypassed the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary permission to enter the country called immigration parole,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni said to the judge during a hearing on Jan. 6, 2016.
“That’s a discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, we did that so that Mr. Katsyv could testify. And we made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist,” Monteleoni said.
Lynch’s spokesperson did not address the specifics of that case, but said: “The State Department issues visas, and the Department of Homeland Security oversees entry to the United States at airports.”
Veselnitskaya was granted the special immigration parole for the limited purpose of defending a company owned by a Russian businessman in a Justice Department asset forfeiture case, but later participated in a wide-ranging pro-Russia lobbying campaign.