Just when you thought the Trump-Russia scandal couldn't get any deeper, some politicians are pointing at another layer of possibly shady connections. House Democrats are wondering why the Department of Justice settled a money laundering case in May involving a Russian real estate company that may have ties to President Trump — and they sent a formal letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday looking for answers.
The whole situation reads like a complicated political soap opera. On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. confirmed that he met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the presidential election to gather some dirt on Hillary Clinton. While the meeting, according to Trump associates, was a "nothing burger," this disclosure provided a confirmed link between the Trump family and Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya has represented the family of Moscow official Pyotr Katsyv, whose son Denis owns the real-estate company Prevezon Holdings Ltd. That company was recently under investigation by the DOJ in a $230 million fraud and money laundering case, but in May 2017, the case was abruptly settled for only $6 million.
The discovery that Veselnitskaya was a lawyer in the case has raised more than a few eyebrows on Capitol Hill, and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are demanding to know whether the Trump connection had something to do with the decision to settle.
"We write with some concern that the two events may be connected — and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts," the letter reads.
The 17 Democrats who signed the letter are asking whether Veselnitskaya was "involved at any point in the settlement negotiations," and whether there was "any contact between President Trump, White House personnel, the Trump family, or the Trump campaign with the Department of Justice" regarding the Prevezon case.
Democrats think that this connection just might solve the mystery of why the $6 million settlement was so lenient, especially since the case caused confusion almost as soon as it was closed. John Dillard, a spokesman for Prevezon's attorneys, told Business Insider at the time that the settlement came as "a surprise," and Veselnitskaya reportedly told a Russian news outlet that the penalty was so light "it seemed almost an apology from the government."
The Trump Administration maintains that there has been no collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials.