Washington (CNN)A Russian pro-democracy advocate says the controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer -- who has since been reported to have close ties to the Kremlin -- shows the importance of the Magnitsky Act to the Putin regime.
Russian pro-democracy advocate on why the Magnitsky Act matters to Putin
"I think this Trump Tower meeting shows primarily how important the Magnitsky Act is to the Putin regime and how important weakening it, overturning it, potentially repealing it -- how much of a priority that is for the Kremlin," Vladimir Kara-Murza told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.
"This meeting in Trump Tower in the summer of 2016 was just another illustration that they're ready to do any avenues, any methods to try to get to this goal, including using unofficial proxies," he said.
The act, signed into law in December 2012, blocks entry into the US and freezes the assets of certain Russian government officials and businessmen accused of human rights violations.
"The Magnitsky Act is seen by the Kremlin as the biggest threat," Kara-Murza explained. He said the restrictions were "terrifying" because there were "senior officials and the oligarchs in the Putin regime who have for years been stealing in Russia but spending in the West."
"The same people who have been abusing and attacking and undermining the most basic norms of democracy and the rule of law in Russia have been, themselves and for their families, enjoying the protections and privileges provided by democracy and the rule of law in Western countries," he explained.
The law was thrust into international headlines in July 2017, when Donald Trump Jr. claimed he had met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016 to discuss "the adoption of Russian children" and the Magnitsky Act, in contrast to earlier reports that the eldest Trump son was seeking damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
In late April, The New York Times reported that newly surfaced emails suggestd that Veselnitskaya had closer ties to the Kremlin than initially thought, and she told NBC in an interview that she was "an informant." The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that there are ties between Veselnitskaya and the Russian government.