OK, this is about Russia, and it’s going to get a little deep in the weeds, but bear with me.

This stuff fascinates me.

There once was this Russian attorney and auditor named Sergei Magnitsky. He worked for an outfit called Hermitage Capitol.

In 2008, Magnitsky uncovered a $230 million international  money-laundering and tax-fraud scheme in Russia. Magnitsky accused Russian companies of dodging taxes and laundering the proceeds by using foreign-based companies to buy things like pricey New York City property.

For his trouble, Magnitsky was imprisoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Numerous published reports allege he was tortured while in prison. He died in prison under suspicious circumstances in 2009.

In 2011, the Russian government put Magnitsky on trial posthumously on charges of tax evasion. Magnitsky was convicted in 2013.

This infuriated U.S. officials. In 2012, while the trial was going on, the U.S. Congress passed – and President Barack Obama signed – the Magnitsky Act. It was meant to punish Russian officials for the lawyer’s death by keeping them from entering the U.S. or using our banking system.

Putin and his buddies hate that law, of course, and would love to see it off the books. In retaliation, they passed a law halting the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

One company that was alleged to have received money in the money-laundering scheme was called Prevezon. That company was run by Denis Katsyv, the son of a vice president of state-owned Russian Railways.

He was charged with money-laundering by the Justice Department in 2013, which was just settled this past May. Preveson settled the case right before it was set to go to trial by paying a $6 million fine.

A complaint was filed by Hermitage Capital (Magnitsky’s outfit) with the U.S. Justice Department. That complaint alleges improper lobbying activities by Prevezon, which was trying to kill the Magnitsky Act.

Helping Prevezon in its lobbying activities, the complaint further alleges, was a company called Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS is an opposition research firm based in Washington, D.C.

Fusion GPS was hired by Republicans during the 2016 primary election to dig up dirt on Donald Trump.

After Trump won the nomination, the same firm was employed by Democrats to continue digging up dirt about Trump before the 2016 general election.

Fusion GPS is widely reported to be the company that hired the former British intelligence service agent who created the now-infamous Trump dossier that was leaked to BuzzFeed.

You know, the one about hookers and meetings between Trump and Russian officials. So far the FBI has not been able to verify any of the accusations in the Trump dossier.

Whew! Are you still with me?

Natalia Veselnitskaya is a Russian attorney who defended Katsyv (the Prevezon guy). She also has spent a great deal of time lobbying against the Magnitsky Act. She helped organize the screening of an anti-Magnitsky film. Some would call it pro-Russian propaganda.

Hermitage Capitol’s complaint says Veselnitskaya hired Fusion GPS to help her, alleging Fusion GPS headed the pro-Russia campaign to kill the Magnitsky Act.

Earlier this year, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley asked the Justice Department to investigate Fusion GPS.

Grassley:

“Fusion GPS is the company behind the creation of the unsubstantiated dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and Russia. It is highly troubling that Fusion GPS appears to have been working with someone with ties to Russian intelligence – let alone someone alleged to have conducted political disinformation campaigns – as part of a pro-Russia lobbying effort while also simultaneously overseeing the creation of the Trump-Russia dossier.”

Veselnitskaya also is the attorney Donald Trump Jr. met with at Trump Tower, along with his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort in June 2015.

Up to this point, I’m pretty sure everything I’ve written here is accurate. Every bit of it can be found reported in multiple, credible publications. (I actually have a copy of the Hermitage Capital complaint.)

From here on out, though, it gets a little dicey because it’s a he-said, she-said.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for President Trump’s legal team, said the following in a statement released to the media:

“We have learned from both our own investigation and public reports that the participants in the meeting misrepresented who they were and who they worked for. Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the President and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier."

Can you believe him?

Fusion GPS, in a statement to the New York Times, said this:

“Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is false.”

Can you believe them?

A British publicist told Junior that Veselnitskaya would provide compromising information about Hillary Clinton at the Trump Tower meeting.

Can you believe him?

Veselnitskaya tells NBC, “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.”

Can you believe her?

Well, I don’t know who to believe, but I know one thing:

Junior looks like an idiot. Seriously, for a smart guy, how could he be so dense?

He gets email from a “British publicist.” A publicist. The job of a publicist is to exaggerate and make things up, right?.

The guy says he’s got a “Russian government lawyer” who’s got dirt on Hillary straight from the Kremlin.

Really? Former KGB spy chief Vladimir Putin’s people are gonna use a British publicist as an intermediary? No red flags there, eh, Junior?

Oh no, he jumps in with both feet – in an email – and says “If it’s what you say, I’d love it” – in an email. (I repeated that for emphasis.)

Junior would probably fall for the crying grandchild scam if he had grandkids. “Yeah, I’d love to run out and get that iTunes gift card. Just give me 10 minutes, OK?”

Inquiring legal minds will battle over whether this was illegal.  Probably was, frankly. But legal or illegal, it was smarmy, stupid and played right into the Trump/Russia collusion narrative being set up at the time.

Everybody agrees Veselnitskaya was not a government lawyer and had no dirt on Hillary.

If that’s true, whatever could have motivated the Briti$h publici$t to lie to Junior to get that meeting? Idea$, anyone?

Did Fusion GPS set up this meeting while running an opposition research campaign on candidate Trump? Why expend all those resources digging for dirt when you can hit the motherlode with one simple email to a dupe?

And then there’s this reporting from TheHill.com:

The Russian lawyer who penetrated Donald Trump’s inner circle was initially cleared into the United States by the Justice Department under “extraordinary circumstances” before she embarked on a lobbying campaign last year that ensnared the president’s eldest son, members of Congress, journalists and State Department officials, according to court and Justice Department documents and interviews.

So it was the Obama Justice Department that let the “Russian  government lawyer” into the U.S. without a visa.

Uh-huh.

Junior got played like a pawnshop fiddle.