Hours after the Washington Post confirmed through two White House attorneys that several administration lawyers had pushed for Senior Adviser Jared Kushner to step down from his role amid the widening Russia investigation, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed the report as false during an official press briefing on Tuesday.
“[There was] no conversation that I’m aware of,” Sanders said, when asked if there had been any discussions within the administration about ousting the president’s son-in-law. “Certainly no presentation, as both the president’s attorneys have gone on record to say.”
Sanders’ comments clashed, however, with earlier statements made by those very same attorneys—White House lawyers Ty Cobb and John Dowd—who confirmed to the Post on Tuesday that conversation over Kushner’s continued presence had indeed taken place.
“Those whose agendas were and remain focused on sabotaging him and his family for misguided personal reasons are no longer around,” Cobb stated, blaming “disclosure of the internal debate” on Kushner’s enemies, according to the Post.
“All clandestine efforts to undermine him never gained traction,” Cobb added, saying Kushner was “among the President’s most trusted, competent, selfless and intelligent advisers.”
For his part, Dowd also confirmed “that the subject was raised”, but claimed that he had disagreed with suggestions that Kushner presented “potential legal complications” for the president moving forward, as the Post had reported.
“That’s all I have to say about it,” he told the outlet.
According to the Post, the initial discussions over Kushner’s continued role as senior adviser first cropped up over the summer, around the same time that news broke concerning the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a meeting he and Kushner had held with a Russian lawyer to obtain damaging information about then presidential rival Hillary Clinton. Kushner’s attorneys later claimed that he had simply forgotten to disclose the meeting on his SF-86, a government document required to obtain top secret security clearance, prior to accepting the White House advisory post.
The report specifically noted:
Other people familiar with the Trump lawyers’ debate said Kushner’s presence in the White House created risks that were logical discussion topics for the legal team as it sought to minimize risks for Trump amid a widening investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The lawyers “would have been dummies” not to consider walling the president off from another person who would become a major subject for the special counsel’s investigation, said one person briefed on the discussion. Kushner had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and also with an executive from a major Russian bank.
Kushner is reportedly being investigated as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into potential ties between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials; intelligence officials believe that Russian players used those ties to sway the 2016 election results in Trump’s favor.
Others on Mueller’s list reportedly include former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, White House counsel Don McGahn, and Donald Trump Jr.