The Translator Swept Up in Donald Trump Jr.’s Russian Dirt Hunt


A translator named Anatoli Samochornov was in the meeting between Donald Trump’s campaign team and two Russian lobbyists last year.

Samochornov was named on Friday by Rinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist who also attended the Trump Tower meeting. Samochornov’s mother-in-law confirmed he was at the meeting in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast at his home on Thursday morning.

“He wasn’t participating,” she said at his New York-area home. “He’s just an interpreter.”

Samochornov, an American citizen, has worked as a translator for Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who led the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. on June 9, 2016. Samochornov translated for Veselnitskaya while she represented a Russian defendant in a money-laundering case in federal court last year and accompanied her to Belgium to promote a film critical of a U.S. anti-money laundering law.

A long-time colleague of Samochornov — who said she first heard from The Daily Beast he was in the meeting also attended by Trump, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort — praised him Thursday morning as a top-notch translator.

Samochornov has a long-track record of interpreting for governmental agencies and dignitaries, including Russia’s leading human-rights activist and the U.S. State Department. He holds an M.A. in linguistics from the Institute of Foreign Languages in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and an MBA from the University of Washington.

Samochornov seemed to dislike Republicans like Trump on social media. In 2013, he shared a meme about restarting America in "safe mode," with free health care and without guns. In another post, he shared a Rachel Maddow post critical of Karl Rove.

Samochornov is bound by professional conduct not to talk publicly about discussions with clients. The American Translators Association lists in its code of ethics and professional practice that interpreters' ethical and professional duty to "hold in confidence any privileged and/or confidential information entrusted to us in the course of our work."

Samochornov’s work for Veselnitskaya extended outside of the courtroom. Veselnitskaya formed a non-profit group called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, which employed Akhmetshin as a lobbyist. The group’s stated purpose is to restart the adoptions of Russian children to the U.S. by repealing the Magnitsky Act.

In April 2016, Samochornov interpreted for Veselnitskaya at an aborted screening of an anti-Magnitsky Act documentary in Belgium.

Federal prosecutors claimed in court that Samochornov was an “officer” of Veselnitskaya’s group. In one exchange from May 2017, prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over whether Samochornov should be allowed to serve as an interpreter for Denis Katsyv, owner of Russian company Prevezon on trial for money laundering.

Defense attorneys argued that Katsyv would be more comfortable using a translator already familiar with his speech patterns, while prosecutors argued that Samochornov’s familiarity with Veselnitskaya made him more akin to “a member of the defense team.”

“He has apparently been engaged in lobbying efforts that seem to have some connection to at least the defendants’ lawyers in Washington,” assistant U.S. attorney Paul Monteleoni said, according to a court transcript. “We understand, he is the officer of a nongovernmental organization founded along with one of the defense lawyers. It’s a little different from our interpreters.”

The judge allowed Samochornov to interpret because he is certified to do so in the Southern District of New York. (The case was settled that same month.)

Samochornov slammed his door closed when The Daily Beast returned to his home on Thursday evening.

“Please leave my property,” he said.

—Emma Kerr and Joanna Purpich contributed reporting.

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