Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Trump and his son-in-law, will be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee about his pre-inauguration contact with Russian officials.
Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that Kushner and Michael Flynn — who was ousted from his role as Trump’s national security adviser after it was revealed he had misled Vice President Pence about his pre-inauguration communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — met with Kislyak in December.
But the Times now reports that in addition to that meeting, Kushner had a previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a Russian bank that was hit with sanctions by the Obama administration. The meeting between Kushner and Vnesheconombank chief Sergey Gorkov occurred at Kislyak’s behest, according to the White House.
At the time of his meeting with the Russian banker, “Kushner had not yet stepped aside as chief executive of Kushner Companies, his family’s real estate empire, and was trying to attract investment for the company’s crown jewel, an overleveraged Manhattan office tower on Fifth Avenue,” the Times reports. “He was in the midst of negotiations to redevelop the building with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese company with ties to the Beijing government… Senate investigators plan to ask Mr. Kushner if he discussed ways to secure additional financing for the building during his meeting with the Russian banker, a government official said.”
WH official confirms Pres son-in-law Jared Kushner "has volunteered" to be questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee, but no date set.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 27, 2017
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Kushner’s family business struck a $4 billion deal with Anbang, a Chinese company with murky links to the country’s power structure, that will result in the Kushner family receiving more than $400 million. The deal “includes terms that some real estate experts consider unusually favorable for the Kushners.”
News of the deal prompted five Democratic lawmakers to write the White House deputy counsel a letter asking about potential conflicts of interest due to Anbang’s “close ties to the Chinese state.” On Saturday, Anbang denied that a deal was done, saying “there is no investment” in a statement sent to Bloomberg.
Kushner has sold his ownership stake in the business, but government ethics experts “argue that the Kushner family and business are so close-knit that the steps Jared Kushner has taken do not go far enough,” Bloomberg reported.
White House spokesperson Hope Hicks denied that Kushner and Gorkov discussed business during their half-hour get-together, with Hicks telling the Times that “it really wasn’t much of a conversation.” Kushner didn’t disclose the meeting to other Trump transition officials because he thought it was inconsequential.
“There was nothing to get out in front of on this,” Hicks told the Times.
WH official further explains that Kushner was the Trump Campaign's "primary point of contact" with foreign governments and officials.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) March 27, 2017
The Times reports that Vnesheconombank’s “supervisory board is controlled by members of Mr. Putin’s government, including Prime Minister Dimitri A. Medvedev. It has been used to bail out oligarchs favored by Mr. Putin, as well as to help fund pet projects like the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.”
Last year, the bank was linked with a Russian spy ring when Evgeny Buryakov, who worked for Vnesheconombank, pleaded guilty to “posing as a banker while participating in a New York City spy ring that sought to collect economic and other intelligence,” the Guardian reported.
According to a bio of Gorkov on the website of another Russian state-owned bank, he graduated from Russia’s Federal Security Service security agency, the successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB.
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) March 27, 2017
Kislyak has been linked to espionage as well. CNN, citing “current and former US intelligence officials,” describes the Russian ambassador as “a top spy and recruiter of spies, a notion that Russian officials have dismissed.”
Kushner is the fourth current or former member of Trump’s inner circle who has agreed to talk to Congress about ties with Russia. The other three are Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and Carter Page. Stone has admitted to exchanging direct messages with the Twitter account the US intelligence community believes Russian hackers used as a front during the election, Manafort’s secret work on behalf of Putin became news just last week, and Page traveled to Moscow last summer with approval from Trump’s campaign weeks before the Republican National Convention, where the party platform was changed in a manner favorable to Russia.
In addition to separate congressional inquiries in the House and Senate, FBI Director James Comey announced last week that the FBI is also investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.