What exactly does Jared Kushner know?
Jared Kushner is seen listening to his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, at a roundtable with cyber-security experts at the White House on Jan. 31, 2017. (Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post)
The Washington Post on Thursday dropped another bombshell:
"Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.
"Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said. …
The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing."
He might at a later point become a target, but he may merely be a witness to suspected “collusion.” What we do know is that Kushner was a key participant in the campaign, the transition and the decision to fire former FBI director James B. Comey.
We also know that Kushner did not initially disclose contacts with Russian officials. The Post recounts:
The story must be told.
"In early December, Kushner met in New York with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak. Flynn was also present at the early-December meeting, and later that month, Flynn held a call with Kislyak to discuss U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia. [Former national security adviser Michael] Flynn initially mischaracterized the conversation, even to Vice President Pence — ultimately prompting his ouster from the White House. Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine."
Right now the questions far outnumber any concrete facts. These include:
- Did Kushner have meaningful contacts with Russian officials during the campaign? (“FBI agents had been looking closely at earlier exchanges between Trump associates and the Russians dating to the spring of 2016, including one at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington” when Kushner and Kislyak were present for a Trump speech.)
- Did the campaign know in advance of the WikiLeaks disclosures? Did it know about Russian use of disinformation?
- Did Kushner know of other campaign team members’ connections and/or communications with Russian officials?
- Why was the RNC platform changed to take out the pledge to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine?
- What financial ties does Kushner have to Russia or Russian oligarchs, and what does he know about any such ties between Trump and the Russians?
- Did Kushner know Flynn was under investigation as an agent of Turkey when he entered government?
- Did Kushner know about — or join in — a scheme to fire Comey in order to derail the Russia investigation, create a fake reason for the firing and dispatch the vice president to vouch for a pretextual reason?
- Is there a recording system in the White House?
Quite apart from the Russia investigation and any possible scheme to obstruct justice, Kushner’s own finances should be of concern to Congress (if we had a majority interested in conscientious oversight). The Post has reported that Kushner is “keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties. The value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business.” Congress certainly should investigate the extent to which Kushner has conflicts of interest and/or is enriching himself by virtue of his perch in the White House, either of which would violate ethics rules. Moreover, the Constitution’s emoluments clause — which bars anyone who is holding an office from receiving gifts and other things of value from a foreign government — applies to him, just as it does the president. Is Kushner taking steps to make certain that he is not violating the Constitution?
Trump brought his unqualified, inexperienced multimillionaire son-in-law into the White House and gave him a gigantic portfolio. In the long run, that may prove to be a financial and/or legal headache for both of them.
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Welcome back, Mr. President. Things have only gotten worse for you.