By now we've all heard about the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and other senior members of the Trump campaign and Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya.
At this meeting where the Trump campaign was supposed to be offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, the conversation turned to Venselnitskaya pushing for the elimination of the Magnitsky Act.
What is this act that was so important to the Russians? The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and auditor who in 2008 untangled a dense web of tax fraud and graft involving 23 companies and $230 million linked to the Kremlin and individuals close to the government. Magnitsky was the target of investigations, arrested and kept in jail without charges. He was beaten and later died under mysterious circumstances in jail just days before his possible release.
President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act in December 2012 as retaliation against the human rights abuses suffered by Magnitsky. The law blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the United States, froze any assets held by U.S. banks and banned their future use of U.S. banking systems.
When pressed on the details of his meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. appeared to downplay its significance by linking it to concerns over an issue that appears uncontroversial on its surface: adoption. But the barring of U.S. adoptions of Russian children was how the Russians wanted to punish potential Americans hoping to adopt Russian babies.
Trump Jr. said that despite assurances that Veselnitskaya would come bearing incriminating information about Hillary Clinton in their 2016 meeting, the topic quickly shifted to the Magnitsky Act and U.S. adoptions from Russia. If this law could be repealed, it would allow the Russian oligarchs and Putin to directly to use U.S. banks.