Investigations have been ongoing regarding the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to US President Donald Trump, as part of the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a report by the Washington Post.
The financial dealings of Trump’s other associates, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page have also come under FBI scrutiny, the report says.
The FBI, through special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was investigating several meetings Kushner held with Russians in December — first with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a state-owned Russian development bank.
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According to the US officials who reviewed the intelligence reports describing Kislyak’s account, Kushner suggested establishing a secure communications between Trump officials and the Kremlin at the meetings held at a Russian diplomatic facility.
The officials who described the financial focus of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly.
The White House has said that the subsequent meeting with the banker, Gorkov, was a pre-inauguration diplomatic encounter unrelated to any business matters.
However, the Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, confirmed that the meeting occurred as Kushner’s company was seeking financing for its troubled $1.8 billion purchase of an office building on Fifth Avenue in New York. This could raise questions as to the conflict between Kushner’s personal problems and his role as a public official.
Because of the early state of Mueller’s investigation, it is uncertain whether criminal charges will be brought against Kushner.
Kushner has agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“We do not know what this report refers to,” Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Kushner, said in an email. “It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”
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Despite Kushner’s reticence on the topic of his role in the White House, he has become an important figure in the administration with significant policy responsibilities, such as peace in the Middle East, resting on his shoulders.
According the Washington Post, Mueller, who was appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod J Rosenstein on May 17, is investigating possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters, including an examination of whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice or not.
This led to Trump releasing a series of tweets on Thursday June 15, where he termed the investigation as "the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history" and compared it to the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, "bleached" emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared — & they talk about obstruction?” he wrote.
Last week, former director of FBI James B. Comey, who was fired by President Trump, confirmed in a testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump was not under any investigations. This confirmation came after he thrice reassured Trump of his (Trump’s) non-involvement in the matter. The first time he told Trump was in his first meeting with the then-president-elect before the inauguration, on Jan. 6.
Before he met with the US President, Comey gathered his leadership team at the FBI and discussed the assurances that would be given to Trump regarding investigations against him. However, the decision was not unanimous as general counsel James A Baker voiced his disagreement. Even though Comey didn’t name the dissenter, the Post was able to learn that Baker said that “although it was true at the moment that Trump was not under investigation, it was possible that could change.”
“His concern was, because we’re looking at the potential — again, that’s the subject of the investigation — coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump — President-elect Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was, inevitably, his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work,” Comey said.
“And so he was reluctant to make the statement that I made,” Comey said.
Comey’s assurances to Trump for a second and third time could not change Baker’s views. Baker himself has declined to make any comments.
The investigation regarding obstruction-of-justice began in the days following Trump’s firing of Comey on May 9 and before Mueller’s appointment as the special counsel, according to the people associated with the matter.
In an interview with NBC regarding the firing of Comey, Trump talked about how when he decided to fire Comey, he thought that the accusation brought against Trump was ‘a made-up story, an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won’.
Comey has told lawmakers to give the notes that he took after each of his nine meetings or phone calls with Trumps to Mueller. Comey testified that after security adviser Flynn was forced to resign, at one meeting with the president alone inside the Oval Office on February 14, Trump said to him, “I hope you can let this go”. The president has denied that he told Comey to drop the Flynn investigation.
Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Mike Rogers, the head of the National Security Agency, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller on the topic of the investigation.
Since then, Trump has spoken to Coats and Rogers about Russia. He asked FBI to cease its focus on Flynn through Comey’s intervention, according to officials.
Trump later telephoned Coats and Rogers to separately ask them to issue public statements denying that there was evidence of coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the president’s requests, officials said.