So how serious is what Jared Kushner did, by attempting to secure a private line of communications with the Kremlin?
A story from Business Insider has more details.
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.
So let’s first make it clear that Kushner did NOT want U.S. officials to know he was talking with the Kremlin.
(Russia is not our friend.)
Further, it appears Kushner also had telephone conversations with Kislyak between April and November of 2016 that he did not disclose.
So I ask again, how serious is it?
“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.”
It certainly sounds like a big problem.
“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.”
Here’s an interesting bit:
As the White House has vowed to crack down on leaks, the story of Kushner’s meeting with Kislyak came from an anonymous letter to the Washington Post, back in December. Some are wondering if it was someone also on the team who tipped them off.
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.
It was supposedly Kislyak who set up the meeting between Kushner and Gorkov.
The more that unfolds, the more troubling this looks.