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In the days before her June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. and other top Trump campaign aides, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was granted a visa by the US State Department to enter the country.
"In Sept. 2015, DHS paroled Natalia Veselnitskaya into the U.S. in concurrence with the U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York, allowing her to participate in a client’s legal proceedings," the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement to BuzzFeed News Thursday night.
"Ms. Veselnitskaya was subsequently paroled into the U.S. several times between 2015 and 2016, ending in February 2016. In June 2016, she was issued a B1/B2 nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Department of State," it said.
The statement contradicts remarks made by President Donald Trump earlier Thursday, suggesting that the Russian lawyer had somehow been allowed into the US by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch,” Trump said at a press conference in Paris. “Now, maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago, but a little surprised to hear that. So, she was here because of Lynch."
Almost immediately, a spokesperson for Lynch put out a statement insisting that she had no authority over whether or not the Russian lawyer was allowed to enter the country.
"Lynch, as the former head of the Justice Department, does not have any personal knowledge of Ms. Veselnitskaya's travel,” the statement said.
The Department of Homeland Security confirmed to BuzzFeed News that it was the agency responsible for granting Veselnitskaya special permission to enter the US in 2015, after she was initially denied a visa by the State Department.
The decision was made at the behest of the Department of Justice, specifically the Manhattan US Attorney's office, so that Veselnitskaya could participate in a civil asset forfeiture trial involving her client, the Russian-owned investment company Prevezon Holdings.