Spotlight on a Russian-American lobbyist

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

If American politics was Broadway, we would call Rinat Akhmetshin a walk-on, delivering a one-time-only-performance more or less by happenstance on the largest stage in the world. In this case, we are talking Trump Tower, and a June 2016 meeting that has assumed an outsized place in political and law enforcement circles, animated by the ominous suggestion of a plot involving the Trump campaign, the Kremlin and Russia's spy agencies.

The drama stems from those present: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign adviser Paul Manafort — along with a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, there to represent "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." And of course Akhmetshin, a gun-for-hire with a personal touch who spoke often of his time in a Soviet military counter-intelligence unit, but in Washington operated largely in the shadows, working for and against some of the world's most notorious figures—until he surfaced at Trump Tower.

The spotlight on Akhmetshin has risen as special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's role in the 2016 election reaches a new stage: