Investigating Jared Kushner

Investigating Jared Kushner
The team headed by special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly scrutinizing the role played by White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner in the firing of former FBI Chief..

The team headed by special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly scrutinizing the role played by White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner in the firing of former FBI Chief James Comey.

Kushner has also turned over documents to investigators voluntarily, according to a report from the CNN.

Background

The consensus amongst the intelligence community in the US is that members of the Russian government interfered with the US elections to destabilize the presidential bid of former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. It has also been reported that the Russian government tried to disrupt Clinton’s campaign through cyber attacks and email leaks and largely favoured Donald Trump over her.

Additionally, in March 2017, then-FBI director, James Comey noted that the agency was also investigating the possible links between Russian government and Trump campaign aides. A lot of the controversy had centred on the appointment of General Michael Flynn as the National Security Adviser. The then Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates (who was also incidentally fired by Mr. Trump), warned the White House that Flynn was likely “compromised” and could be a target for blackmail by the Russians. Additionally, it also came into light that he may have misled the Vice President, Mike Pence, of the nature of his conversation with the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

Fired FBI director, James Comey, during his testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmed that Trump during his meetings with Comey had expressed “hope” that the FBI would drop its investigations against Flynn.  Many lawmakers in the country immediately decried and said that this showed that the White House tried to influence an ongoing investigation and tried to obstruct the course of justice.

There is an ongoing investigation by the Department of Justice (DoJ) on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to disrupt the 2016 presidential elections. DoJ has appointed former head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, to head this investigation. The team is also possibly looking into whether Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

The meeting

In June 2016, Trump Jr met with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya and music promoter Rob Goldstone. Veselnitskaya has deep ties to Kremlin. Goldstone arranged for the meeting, noting that this was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.” The Trump campaign was promised information that would be harmful to the Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Trump Jr replied that he “loved it.” The meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor at the White House and then chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort.

Analysis

Kushner testified in front of Congress in July 2017 and stated that he did not collude with Russia and provided  context to the meeting with Veselnitskaya. He said he was unaware of the full extent of Veselnitskaya’s motives and that he left the meeting early.

Reports have since emerged that it Kushner in his capacity as the Senior White House Advisor had urged Trump to fire Comey. The firing of Comey was the catalyst that resulted in Mueller being appointed Special Counsel to head the investigation. According to CNN, Kushner has turned over documents in recent weeks to special counsel Robert Mueller. The report also stated that investigators have begun asking in witness interviews about Kushner's role in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. This is to try and probe whether the firing of Comey could be categorized as obstruction to justice.

CNN in its report stated, “White House sources say it was the President alone who made that decision after watching Comey's congressional testimony May 3. While Kushner and those close to the White House will only say he was in favor of the decision -- or, in the words of one attorney, "did not oppose it" -- there are multiple sources who say that Kushner was a driver of the decision and expected it would be a political boon for the President.”

There have been multiple developments in Mueller’s investigation in the recent days. George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy consultant for the Trump campaign, has become the first person to plead guilty in the case and has confessed to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Former Chairmen of the Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort and his former business associate Rick Gates have surrendered to Federal authorities. They were indicted on 12 counts, including conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, false statements. Further details can be found here.

Assessment

Our assessment is that as the investigation continues to intensify, Trump’s approval numbers will continue to suffer. The investigation also casts the entire Presidency in doubt. Kushner is a top aide in the White House with security clearance; if he is indicted, it would be catastrophic for the administration. Now both his son and his son-in-law seem to be in trouble. 

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