He wasn’t just a rank-and-file Russian government employee.
There’s a reason the FBI and U.S. intelligence have raised red flags concerning President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner in recent weeks.
The Russian banker Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met with in December is viewed by U.S. intelligence as a “Putin crony” and a graduate of a “finishing school” for spies who was often tasked with sensitive financial operations by Putin, according to multiple U.S. officials and documents viewed by NBC News.
Sergey Gorkov, 48, graduated from the FSB Academy, which was chartered in 1994 to educate Russian Intelligence personnel. He has long served Russian President Vladimir Putin in critical economic roles. Most recently, Putin chose him to head of the state-owned VneshEconomBank (VEB). As the Russian state national development bank, VEB has played a critical role in blunting the impact of U.S. sanctions against Russia by finding other sources of foreign capital.
Before that, Gorkov was the deputy chairman of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, also state-owned, and also under U.S. sanctions since 2014.
This seems to go along with the general flow of the conversations that led to the ousting of national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn is accused of having conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak about U.S. sanctions on Russia, then misleading the administration about that contact.
The news that broke on Friday evening about Jared Kushner suggests that in a December meeting, Kushner, Flynn, and Kislyak met to discuss setting up a secure line of communication, using Russian facilities, between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin.
Kushner’s meetings and the purpose for their communications has been somewhat muddied by the fact that the administration and VEB seem to have different versions of how and why these calls happened.
They both agree Kushner and Gorkov met at a banking “road show” in December.
The White House subsequently characterized the meeting as part of Kushner’s role as a transition adviser and conduit for the State Department. But Gorkov in a written statement to Reuters, said it was a business meeting. According to Reuters, Gorkov met “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the U.S., including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.”
So which is it?
I’ve seen several theories floated about Kushner’s interactions with Gorkov and Kislyak, as well as his desire to set up secretive channels of communication. Both are valid for discussion.
The one theory is almost hopeful, giving some indication of naivete, if not outright careless and dumb.
In this theory, Kushner was acting on the mistrust perpetuated by his father-in-law and those in his close circle for the U.S. intelligence community.
Trump began his war of words with the FBI and CIA early on.
If this theory is to fly, we have to believe that maybe… just maybe… the distrust was so much that Kushner was attempting to set up communications that couldn’t be intercepted and used against the administration.
However, he created a self-fulfilling prophecy when U.S. intelligence intercepted conversations Russian officials were having and they found out about his efforts through those conversation, bringing him under the scrutiny of the FBI.
The second theory is more insidious.
There was something in it for them.
Kushner saw a way to work towards some mutually beneficial goal for Kushner and Trump businesses with the Russian government.
In order to make that highly illegal move, they had to be sure it was being kept private.
Both are theories, of course, and we could be a long way from knowing exactly what happened.
Suffices to say, Kushner may have painted himself into an uncomfortable corner, and the calls for his firing will likely put pressure on President Trump, once he returns from his first trip abroad.