Kushner Had “Hardly Any” Contacts with Russians. Except These

Two meetings with the Russian ambassador, one with a Russian lawyer and another with the head of Vnesheconombank.

Jared Kushner listens as his wife, Ivanka, speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and American president Donald Trump outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17
Jared Kushner listens as his wife, Ivanka, speaks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and American president Donald Trump outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, March 17 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

American president Donald Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, Jared Kushner, claims he had “hardly any” contacts with Russians during the 2016 election campaign.

Except for these:

  • One (brief) meeting with Sergei Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States, in April.
  • And maybe two phone calls with Kislyak in the months thereafter, as Reuters has reported. Kushner is “skeptical” the calls took place.
  • Definitively a meeting with various Russian officials, including the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, that was also attended by Donald Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and his oldest son.

In a letter to the congressional committees that are investigating Russia’s role in the election, Kushner claims he didn’t know what the meeting was going to be about, because he didn’t read an email forwarded by Donald Trump Jr. in which a Russian acquaintance promised them “incriminating” information about Hillary Clinton.

Which is a little hard to believe when the very first word in the email’s headline was “Russia”.

  • There was another meeting with Kislyak in December, after the election, also attended by Trump’s future national security advisor, Michael Flynn.

According to Kushner, it was at this meeting that the use of a secure Russian communication facility was discussed, as The Washington Post first reported in May.

Kushner claims he did not propose to set up a secret back channel. It was Kislyak, he writes, who asked if the Trump organization had a secure communications channel, so Russia could share sensitive information about the war in Syria with them. (What information?) Given that they didn’t, Kushner suggested using Russia’s embassy, a suggestion Kislyak turned down.

  • Kushner claims Kislyak pressured him into meeting Sergei Gorkov, a graduate of Russia’s spy school and head of Vnesheconombank.

Kushner claims he did not discuss “any private business of any kind” with Gorkov. Which would be good, because Vnesheconombank is under sanction and discussing business transactions with Gorkov could be illegal.

But if Kushner is telling the truth and Gorkov only made some general “statements about the Russian economy” and “expressed disappointment with US-Russia relations under President Obama,” why was Kislyak so adamant the two meet?

And why did Kushner allow himself to be pressured into meeting with a shady figure like Gorkov in the first place?

Kushner disclosed none of these contacts on his original security-clearance application. He blames that on an aide who supposedly submitted an incomplete version of the document. Which he nevertheless signed.