US POLITICS

FBI Investigation Shifts To Kushner’s Ties With Russia

Kushner met with the chairman of a sanctioned Russian bank and allegedly attempted to establish a back channel with the Russian envoy

US POLITICS
Trump and Kushner — REUTERS
May 28, 2017 at 11:04 AM ET

President Donald Trump returned from a first foreign trip he described as a “great success for America” to the tumult of the ongoing FBI investigation into the president’s ties with Russia that is now shedding a spotlight on the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.

The FBI has reportedly considered Kushner a person of interest, to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee about his potentially inappropriate, if not illegal, relations with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and with the prominent Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, who is also said to be a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kushner has not yet been charged with any wrongdoing, and it is still unclear what was discussed between Kushner and the Russians. But the talks could have included anything from strategy on Syria, where Russia backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, to the more problematic question of lifting of U.S. sanctions for Russian financial institutions, potentially in exchange for Russian investments.

Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed meetings with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, according to senior officials cited by Reuters. Kushner joined Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, at the meetings with Kislyak at Trump Tower, which were apparently intended to create a back channel for direct Kremlin-Washington communications during the transition period, according to the Washington Post and others.

Kushner met separately in December with Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of a Moscow-based state-owned Vnesheconom bank (VEB), which has been under sanctions by the United States since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. The bank has also funded the historically expensive 2014 Olympic games in Sochi amid reports that the Russians had paid bribes to steal the bid from Austria.

Gorkov is widely seen as a crony of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was apparently pardoned from the Russian president’s crackdown on the now-defunct Russian Yukos oil company where Gorkov once worked.

Gorkov was one of only a handful of people left over from Putin seizure of the company, and since then has been “doing well under the current regime,” said former Yukos lawyer Pavel Ivlev.

Keeping with their tradition, American and Russian officials are attempting to brush off the news, asserting that there was nothing out of the ordinary in Kushner’s meetings with the Russians.

“We have back channel communications with a number of countries,” Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told American reporters traveling with Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner, so I’m not concerned.”

Leonid Slutsky, the сhairman of Russia’s parliamentary international affairs committee, called the allegations “complete nonsense.”