Saudi Arabia’s crown prince reportedly bragged about having Jared Kushner ‘in his pocket’ after being told classified information meant for Trump

Jared Kushner reportedly discussed classified information obtained from the President’s Daily Brief with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who bragged that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” according to a report by The Intercept.

Presidential son-in-law-turned-advisor Jared Kushner reportedly had a penchant for reading President Donald Trump’s daily brief, a highly sensitive intelligence update that is only meant to be seen by the president and his top advisers, before being stripped of his top security clearance and access to the daily brief in February.

Before losing his security access, Kushner was particularly interested about information on the Middle East, the Intercept reported, citing several former White House and US government officials.

When Salman became the new heir to the throne in June last year, the daily brief reportedly began to focus on shifting political allegiances in Saudi Arabia, and named several Saudi royals who were opposed to the crown prince’s position.

Kushner then made a surprise trip to Riyadh in October, reportedly staying up until 4 a.m. with Salman to discuss strategy.

Several sources told the Intercept that following the meeting, Salman told close confidants that Kushner had spilled the names of the Saudi royals “disloyal” to the prince, although Kushner’s camp strongly denies the claim.

Salman reportedly told the United Arab Emirates’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed about the meeting with Kushner, bragging that he had Kushner “in his pocket,” sources told the Intercept.

Just a week after the meeting Salman began his large-scale corruption crackdown, which saw 200 officials arrested. According to the report, Saudi officials mentioned in the daily briefs were among those detained.

The “two princes” have forged a close bond

Kushner has built a close relationship with the Salman, setting the stage for close communication between the the US and Saudi Arabia.

Kushner and Salman began their friendship at a lunch meeting at the White House last year, according to the Washington Post, citing sources familiar with their relationship. The two have been tasked with leading negotiations on Israel-Palestine peace, and have consulted frequently in private phone calls over several months, according to the Post.

A source close to Kushner told CNN that Kushner’s relationship with the Saudi prince is more personal and close than other professional relationships between the US and world leaders, and that Kushner seeks to use that bond to deepen ties between the countries.

Kushner is said to be playing an important role in Salman’s visit to the US this week.

Kushner attended official meetings between the president and the Saudi delegation, and is scheduled in for several dinners with Salman and other US and Saudi officials.

[Business Insider]

Out of Public View, Trumps and Kushners Are Talking Business

The Kushner and Trump families have both been in New York real estate for decades.

But until relatively recently, they didn’t work together on large projects.

That appears to be changing with a new Jeresy Shore development led by the Kushners, which the New York Times is reporting will have at least one hotel managed by the Trumps. According to the Times, there is a signed letter of intent.

“The long-running talks blur the line between family, business and politics in ways that lack precedent: Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, retain financial interests in their family businesses,” the Times writes. “The Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser has raised questions about a potential deal—one reason the two-year-long discussions have not been completed.”

The report quotes an ethics advisor who points out that this conflict of interest may be the reason Trump hasn’t pushed his son-in-law out of the White House, despite Kushner losing his top-secret security clearance and reports that other nations were looking to exploit his massive debt load in negotiations.

“The concern is that the president might not want to do anything that would upset the Kushner family agreement to do business with his company,” said the ethics advisor.

The story goes on to detail all the places the Kushners have borrowed money and to discuss the rarely used emoluments clause of the Constitution.

[RawStory]

Qatar Refused to Invest in Kushner’s Firm. Weeks Later, Jared Backed a Blockade of Qatar.

Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s minister of finance last April, to solicit an investment in the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue, according to a new report from the Intercept.

The Qataris shot him down.

Weeks later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates organized a blockade of Qatar. The Gulf monarchies claimed that this act of aggression was a response to Donald Trump’s call for the Arab world to crack down on terrorists — after taking in the president’s majestic sermon in Riyadh, the Saudis simply couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t take action to thwart Qatar’s covert financing of Islamist extremism.

In reality, the Saudis’ primary aim was to punish Doha for asserting its independence from Riyadh by, among other things, engaging with Iran and abetting Al Jazeera’s journalism. This was obvious to anyone familiar with the Saudis’ own affinity for (shamelessly) exporting jihadism — which is to say, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Middle East politics.

And it was equally obvious that the United States had nothing to gain from a conflict between its Gulf allies. Qatar hosts one of America’s largest and most strategically important air bases in the Middle East. Any development that pushes Doha away from Riyadh pulls it toward Tehran. Thus, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — and virtually every other arm of the U.S. government — scrambled to nip the blockade in the bud.

But Jared Kushner was (reportedly) an exception. Donald Trump was more than happy to endorse the idea that his speech had moved mountains, and commended the Saudis for punishing Qatar — first on Twitter, and then during a press conference in the Rose Garden. According to contemporary reports, his son-in-law was one of the only White House advisers to approve of this stance.

Perhaps, Kushner’s idiosyncratic view of the blockade had nothing to do with Qatar’s rejection of his father. Maybe the senior White House adviser simply wanted to tell Trump what the latter wished to hear. Alternatively, it’s at least conceivable that contemporary reports were wrong, and that Kushner played no significant role in Trump’s decision to support the blockade.

Regardless, the senior White House adviser is adamant that there was no relationship whatsoever between his family’s business dealings and the administration’s policy. “It is fantasy and part of a misinformation campaign for anyone to say or any media to report that Mr. Kushner took any action with respect to Qatar or any other country based on whether anyone in that country did or did not do business with his former company from which he disengaged before coming into the government,” Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Mr. Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement. “Mr. Kushner has not taken part in any business since then. This is nonsense.”

The government of Qatar, however, suspects otherwise. As NBC News reports:

Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, these people said.

It’s worth noting that the project the Qatari foreign minister refused to finance wasn’t just one more item in the Kushner family’s portfolio; it was Jared’s baby — his misbegotten, sickly, drowning baby.

In 2007, Jared Kushner decided that the real-estate market had nowhere to go but up. And so the 26-year-old mogul decided to plow $500 million of his family’s money — and $1.3 billion in borrowed capital — into purchasing 666 Fifth Avenue for twice the price it had previously sold for. Even if we’d somehow avoided a global financial crisis, this would have been a bad bet: Before the crash, when the building was almost fully occupied, it generated only about two-thirds of the revenue the Kushners needed to keep up with their debt payments.

After the crisis, however, things got really hairy. The Kushners were forced to sell off the building’s retail space to pay their non-mortgage debt on the building — and then to hand over nearly half of the office space to Vornado as part of a refinancing agreement with the real-estate giant.

The office space that the Kushners retained is worth less than its $1.2 billion mortgage — which is due early in 2019. If their company can’t find some new scheme for refinancing and redeveloping the property by then, Kushner will have cost his family a fortune.

And Jared really doesn’t want that to happen. In the months between his father-in-law’s election and inauguration, Kushner divided his time between organizing the transition, and seeking capital from (suddenly quite interested) investors aligned with foreign governments: During that period, Kushner attempted to secure a $400 million loan from the Chinese insurance firm Anbang, and a $500 million one from former Qatari prime minister and billionaire investor Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, also known as “HBJ.” Anbang pulled out once the deal attracted critical media scrutiny, and HBJ jumped ship when the Kushners failed to find a second major source of capital.

In those same weeks, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Kremlin-affiliated Vnesheconombank. The senior White House adviser has insisted that this meeting was strictly political; Gorkov maintains it was strictly business.

All of these interactions are currently being scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

They have also, apparently, been studied by top government officials in the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — all of whom have privately discussed strategies for exploiting Jared Kushner’s business interests for geopolitical gain, according to a report from the Washington Post on Wednesday.

And if America’s allies and adversaries are looking for further (circumstantial) evidence that U.S. foreign policy might be for sale, the New York Times provided some this week, when it revealed that Kushner’s family company had won $500 million in financing last year from a pair of American firms right after their top executives had White House meetings with one Jared Kushner.

Maybe all of this looks worse than it is. But it looks like the president’s son-in-law worked to sour relations with a key U.S. ally in the Middle East — which has since drifted further into the orbit of a regime hostile to the United States — because it refused to bail out his family’s underwater real-estate investment.

Even if this is appearance is deceiving, why isn’t the mere semblance of such high corruption enough to bounce Kushner from the White House? Are Kushner’s personal skills really more valuable than his conflicts of interest are toxic? Is a real-estate heir who has no policy-making experience, background in geopolitics, or security clearance — but does have significant business interests in Israel — really such an ideal choice for brokering peace in the Middle East?

Kushner’s sole qualification for his senior White House position (beyond having been born and betrothed to the right people) is the business savvy that allowed him to avoid squandering his family’s enormous fortune — and if he doesn’t auction off American foreign policy for an emergency loan, he very well may have to delete that item from his résumé.

[New York Magazine]

Officials from four countries discussed exploiting Jared Kushner

Officials from at least four countries have discussed ways they could use Jared Kushner’s intricate business arrangements, lack of experience and financial woes to manipulate President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The paper reported that it is unclear, based on current and former US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, that the countries — – Mexico, Israel, China and the United Arab Emirates — acted on the conversations.

The revelation is the latest in a series that call into question Kushner’s ability to work in the White House given his complex business ties.

CNN reported earlier on Tuesday that Kushner has been stripped of his access to the nation’s top secrets after chief of staff John Kelly mandated changes to the security clearance system. Kushner had been working on a temporary clearance, but, under the new system, aides who previously had “top secret” interim clearances saw their access downgrade to the less sensitive “secret” designation.

[CNN]

Businesses Reportedly Gave Jared Kushner’s Co $500M Loans After White House Meetings

Jared Kushner has been the subject of controversy after his security clearance was downgraded by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Now, according to a report from The New York Times, Kushner Companies, which is run by Kushner’s family, received $184 million from Apollo Global Management, whose founder, Joshua Harris, made “regular visits” to the White House in an advisory capacity.

Kushner resigned from Kushner Companies when he joined the Trump White House and put part of his stake into a trust, but he still has the majority of his interest in the company.

Additionally, the business received a $325 million loan from Citigroup after its CEO, Michael L. Corbat, met with Kushner. The two reportedly did not discuss Kushner Companies.

Government ethics experts told the Times that there is “little precedent” for CEOs whose businesses plan to make large loans to a company a White House official has a stake in meeting with said official.

Conflict of interest questions have plagued the Trump administration from the outset. This new report figures only to fuel critics.

[Mediaite]

Israel invested in “Mideast peace” Trump adviser Jared Kushner

A new report indicates that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner holds a series of strong and shady financial ties to Israel, even as the administration insists he serves as a legitimate broker for potential peace efforts in the Middle East.

His family real estate business, Kushner Companies, received a $30 million investment from Menora Mivtachim, an insurer that is one of the largest financial institutions in Israel, The New York Times reported. The deal was private and took place shortly before Kushner and Trump visited Israel in May on their first diplomatic trip.

The deal “pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Mr. Kushner’s firm,” the Times reported. Despite the fact that Kushner sold parts of his business upon taking a job in the White House, he still holds a significant share in his family’s company, which include the Baltimore-area apartment buildings.

But the Menora deal only scratches the surface of Kushner’s financial conflicts of interests in the region that make the prospect of a fair solution seem bleak at the absolute best.

“The ethics laws were not crafted by people who had the foresight to imagine a Donald Trump or a Jared Kushner, Robert Weissman, the president of the nonprofit government ethics group, Public Citizen, told the Times. “No one could ever imagine this scale of ongoing business interests, not in a local peanut farm or a hardware store but sprawling global businesses that give the president and his top adviser personal economic stakes in an astounding number of policy interests.”

The Trump administration has defended itself, with a White House official saying Kushner “takes the ethics rules very seriously and would never compromise himself or the administration,” the Times reported.

Kushner’s disclosure forms had “100 errors and omissions and multiple updates,” Newsweek reported in October.

Kushner’s family foundation also continues to donate heavily to a group that constructs the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a group largely seen as “one of the main obstacles to a two-state solution,” ProPublica reported.

The Kushners have also engaged in real estate deals with “at least one member of Israel’s wealthy Steinmetz family to buy nearly $200 million of Manhattan apartment buildings, as well as to build a luxury rental tower in New Jersey.” Beny Steinmetz, the most well-known member of the family, is the subject of a bribery investigation by the Justice Department, the Times reported.

“A lot of people wonder whether the United States has ever been an honest broker in the Middle East, and given the positions of the Trump administration, it’s probably even more vulnerable to those claims,” Richard W. Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for the Bush administration told the Times. Using Kushner, the U.S. is “sending over a special envoy who has already identified himself personally more with the hawkish views,” he added.
“He [Kushner] is getting money from wealthy citizens and businesses in one particular country,” Painter said. “You’ve got a situation that is going to be abused by people who don’t like the United States. He’s going to make it that much worse.”

The Kushner family ties to Israel obviously run quite deep, and it’s difficult to imagine the president’s son-in-law as a fair and unbiased broker of a solution for peace in the Middle East — especially with zero prior experience of diplomatic work. Trump has received international condemnation for his brash decision, which has only further stoked tensions with the Palestinians, as well as isolated the U.S. and Israel.

[Salon]

Kushner Used Private Email For White House Work

President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has used a private email account to communicate with other officials in the administration about White House business, according to Politico. 

Kushner has used the email to talk about various topics — including media planning and event coverage — with figures such as former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and President Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

Kushner set up the account during the transition period after he campaigned for Trump, who frequently attacked former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for her user of a private email server while she was secretary of State.

“Mr. Kushner uses his White House email address to conduct White House business,” Kushner’s lawyer Abbe Lowell told Politico in a statement.

“Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr. Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account. These usually forwarded news articles or political commentary and most often occurred when someone initiated the exchange by sending an email to his personal rather than his White House address.”

The report comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues to probe alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the presidential campaign.

Kushner has been seen as a person of interest by Mueller.

The Washington Post reported in May that Kushner and the Russian ambassador to the U.S. had discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.

It was reported in June that Kushner was present at a Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 with a Russian lawyer that was organized by Donald Trump Jr. after he was told the lawyer could provide damaging information on Clinton.

[The Hill]

Jared Kushner ‘Tried and Failed to Get a $500m Loan from Qatar Before Pushing Trump to Take Hard Line Against Country’

Jared Kushner tried and failed to secure a $500m loan from one of Qatar’s richest businessmen, before pushing his father-in-law to toe a hard line with the country, it has been alleged.

This intersection between Mr Kushner’s real estate dealings and his father-in-law’s international issues highlights the difficulties of an administration besiged with an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest.

Early in his real estate career, Mr Kushner purchased a building at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York for $1.8bn – a record-setting deal at the time.

These days, however, more than a quarter of the office space in the building is vacant. According to The New York Times, the building has not generated enough to pay its debts in several years, forcing Kushner Companies to cover the multimillion-dollar difference.

In 2015 – while Donald Trump was firing up his presidential campaign – Mr Kushner was working with his biological father to keep the property from going underwater. The men zeroed in on Qatari billionaire sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani (HBJ) as a potential investor.

HBJ eventually agreed to invest $500m in the property, sources tell The Intercept, on the condition that Kushner Companies found the rest of the money for the multi-billion-dollar project on its own.

For help, Kushner Companies turned to Chinese insurance company Anbang. The company agreed to secure a $4bn construction loan to develop the property in early March. But weeks later, as concerns about conflicts of interest mounted, Anbang pulled out.

Without the help of Anbang, Kushner Companies could not meet the rest of HBJ’s funding demands. According to one source in the region, HBJ killed the deal. According to another, he simply put it on hold.

Either way, a diplomatic crisis centred around Qatar broke out shortly thereafter. In early June, at least six Gulf Region countries severed or reduced ties to the country, claiming it had supported terrorism.

The countries issued a list of demands necessary for Qatar to regain favour, including shutting down the media network Al-Jazeera, cutting ties with various Islamist groups, limiting ties with Iran, and expelling Turkish troops.

The move sent the tiny, isolated nation into an economic tailspin. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quickly encouraged the countries to engage in “calm and thoughtful dialogue“ and asked for “no further escalation by the parties in the region”.

Mr Trump, however, unleashed a string of criticism toward the country, calling it a “funder of terrorism at a very high level”.

“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off,” he tweeted on 6 June. “They said they would take a hard line on funding, extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar.”

The President’s position took Mr Tillerson by surprise, and sources say he suspected Mr Kushner was behind it all.

A source close to Mr Tillerson told The American Conservative that the Secretary of State is convinced that some of Mr Trump’s remarks were written by UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba – a close friend of Mr Kushner.

“Otaiba weighed in with Jared and Jared weighed in with Trump,”  the source said. “What a mess.”

But even if the source’s account of the proceedings is true, it still leaves open the question of why Mr Kushner wanted to convince the President to speak out against Qatar.

Mr Tillerson’s reasons for supporting the small country, and urging a quick end to the conflict, however, are more clear: The US runs a crucial airbase out of the country, which runs air campaigns against Isis in Iraq and Syria, and helps protect Israel.

Mr Tillerson left on Monday for a trip to Turkey, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia to help mediate an end to the crisis. Kushner Companies did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

[The Independent]

Trump’s Huge Saudi Arms Deal is a Big Lie

Among the purported accomplishments of Donald Trump’s first presidential trip abroad—the one in which he insulted NATO allies, lost a handshake battle with French president Emmanuel Macron, and labeled Germans “bad, very bad”—the White House was eager to publicize the “tremendous” $110 billion arms and investments deal he struck with Saudi Arabia. According to The New York Times, the agreement was spearheaded by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who personally intervened to close the deal. “Let’s get this done today,” he reportedly told a delegation of Saudis in Washington ahead of the president’s high-profile flight to Riyadh.

“The deal was finalized in part thanks to the direct involvement of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser,” CNN reported at the time. “He shocked a high-level Saudi delegation earlier this month when he personally called Lockheed Martin C.E.O. Marillyn Hewson and asked if she would cut the price of a sophisticated missile detection system, according to a source with knowledge of the call.” Soon after, the president signed the deal in a ceremony with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

There’s just one small problem: according to Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow and director at the Brookings Intelligence Project, the so-called deal is more of a wish list than a matter of fact. Or, to use Trump’s favorite phrase, it’s “fake news.”

Riedel, who worked for the C.I.A. for 30 years, writes that all of his sources in the defense business and on Capitol Hill say “there is no $110 billion deal” but rather “a bunch of letters of interest or intent but not contracts. Many are offers that the defense industry thinks the Saudis will be interested in someday,” but “so far, nothing has been notified to the Senate for review.” The arms sales division of the Pentagon, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Riedel writes, has labeled them “intended sales.” And here’s the kicker: “none of the deals identified so far are new; all began in the Obama administration.” (The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Riedel’s claims.)

Some of Reidel’s reporting isn’t new—as the Times noted in its story at the time (“$110 Billion Weapons Sale to Saudis Has Jared Kushner’s Personal Touch”), several of the weapons in the proposed package had already been approved under Obama. But leave it to Donald Trump, a brand licensing tycoon who has always been more style than substance, to play up a rough draft of a potential agreement as a groundbreaking diplomatic success. His son-in-law, it seems, has a flair for selling a good story, too.

[Vanity Fair]

Jared Kushner Reportedly Tried to Set Up a Secret Trump-Russia Back Channel

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser, was willing to go extraordinary lengths to establish a secret line of communication between the Trump administration and Russian government officials, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

During the presidential transition period leading up to Trump’s inauguration, Kushner held a series of meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and the head of a Moscow bank that was under US sanctions.

In talks with Kislyak in December, Kushner floated the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia — and having those talks take place in Russian diplomatic facilities in the US, essentially concealing their interactions from US government scrutiny, The Post wrote, citing US intelligence officials briefed on the matter.

Kislyak reportedly passed along that request to Moscow. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller reported that the Russian ambassador was “taken aback” by Kushner’s request, because it posed significant risks for both the Trump team and the Kremlin.

Kushner, who did not disclose the meeting on his security clearance form, is now a subject in the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s election interference, and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine Hillary Clinton.

He also had two previously undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak between April and November of last year, according to Reuters. Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick responded to the Reuters story Friday evening via CNN, saying “Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information.”

“GOOD GRIEF. This is serious,” said Bob Deitz, a veteran of the NSA and the CIA who worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations.

“This raises a bunch of problematic issues. First, of course, is the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting negotiations on behalf of the US government with foreign governments,” Deitz said. “Second, it tends to reinforce the notion that Trump’s various actions about [fired FBI Director James] Comey do constitute obstruction.”

“In other words, there is now motive added to conduct,” Deitz noted. “This is a big problem for the President.”

Kushner did not previously disclose the December meetings to US officials during his background check, and the White House only acknowledged them after news outlets reported on it. It follows a pattern among key Trump advisers that unfolded during and after the 2016 election.

“If you are in a position of public trust, and you talk to, meet, or collude with a foreign power” while trying to subvert normal state channels, “you are, in the eyes of the FBI and CIA, a traitor,” said Glenn Carle, a former top counterterrorism official at the CIA. “That is what I spent my life getting foreigners to do with me, for the US government.”

Carle noted that, if the Kushner-Kislyak meeting and reported discussion were an isolated incident, then it could be spun as “normal back-channel communication arrangements among states.”

“If Jared Kushner was trying to set up a back channel with the Russians, doesn’t that mean he wasn’t colluding with them?” a White House official said in response to the story, according to CNN.

But Kislyak and the Trump campaign interacted extensively, and Trump associates either kept those interactions secret from US officials or misrepresented them, as was the case with Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February for similar reasons.

Reuters reported earlier this month that Flynn and Kislyak also spoke about setting up a secret back channel during the transition between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin “that could bypass the US national security bureaucracy.”

“We know about the multiple meetings of Trump entourage members with Russian intel-related individuals,” Carle said. “There will be many others that we do not know about.” He noted that while this reported back channel is “explosive,” it is worth questioning who planted the story — The Post reportedly received an anonymous letter in December tipping them off to the Kushner-Kislyak meeting.

Additionally, as a longtime diplomat, Kislyak would have known that his communications were being monitored. So the possibility remains, Carle said, that the Russians used the meeting with Kushner to distract the intelligence community and the public from potentially more incriminating relationships between the campaign and Moscow.

Indeed, Kushner also met with the CEO of Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergey Gorkov, in December 2016, The New York Times reported in late March. The meeting — which had not previously been disclosed and came on the heels of Kushner’s meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower — caught the eye of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether any members of Trump’s campaign were complicit.

Kislyak reportedly orchestrated the meeting between Kushner and Gorkov, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in January 2016 as part of a restructuring of the bank’s management team, Bloomberg reported last year.

The Kremlin and the White House have provided conflicting explanations for why Kushner met with Gorkov.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, in testimony Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, said that he was concerned by some of the “interactions” between Russian officials and members of the Trump campaign that took place during the election last year.

Republican Rep. Tom Rooney asked Brennan if he ever found “any direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Putin in Moscow” while he was the CIA director.

Brennan replied that “there was intelligence that the Russian intelligence services were actively involved in this effort … to try to get individuals to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” He added that he was “worried by the contacts that the Russians were having with US persons” and “had unresolved questions” by the time he left office about whether” the Russians had succeeded in getting Americans to do their bidding.

Pressed further, Brennan said that “the information and intelligence revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and US persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of such individuals.”

[Business Insider]

Reality

According to the Washington Post, most analysts agree that it’s appropriate for presidents and their senior aides to use secret contacts to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. And it’s fairly routine for incoming administrations to have get-acquainted talks with foreign governments, too. Such back channels can add stability and predictability in foreign relations.

What’s not okay is when an incoming administration seeks to undermine the policies of the incumbent. We have “one president at a time.” That’s not just a political truism but a matter of law, enunciated back in 1799 in the Logan Act, which prohibits private meddling with official policy during a dispute. The fact that this statute has never been enforced criminally doesn’t blunt its importance.

And it’s not okay, either, for any citizen, even the son-in-law of the president-elect, to propose contacts that would use the communications tools of a foreign intelligence service to evade detection.

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