Kush­ner un­der pres­sure over Rus­sia scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son Don Jr may be in the me­dia spot­light over his no­to­ri­ous Trump Tower meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer promis­ing dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton. But the lat­est rev­e­la­tion in the bur­geon­ing scan­dal has added to the pres­sure on an­other fam­ily mem­ber who was at the meet­ing and is al­ready in the crosshairs of in­ves­ti­ga­tors - Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s in­flu­en­tial sonin-law. Democrats are up in arms, de­mand­ing that the 36-year-old Kush­ner - a se­nior ad­viser to the pres­i­dent with an of­fice in the White House - be stripped of his se­cu­rity clear­ance.

“There doesn’t seem to be any eth­i­cal stan­dard in the White House,” Demo­cratic House mi­nor­ity leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted on Thurs­day. “Jared Kush­ner’s se­cu­rity clear­ance must be im­me­di­ately re­voked.” Even some from Trump’s Repub­li­can Party are not so sure that Kush­ner - who is mar­ried to the pres­i­dent’s el­dest daugh­ter Ivanka - should re­main in the West Wing. “I’m go­ing out on a limb here - but I would say I think it would be in the pres­i­dent’s best in­ter­est if he re­moved all of his chil­dren from the White House,” Texas Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bill Flores told lo­cal tele­vi­sion Thurs­day. “Not only Don­ald Trump (Jr), but Ivanka and Jared Kush­ner.”

Omis­sions on se­cu­rity clear­ance forms

While Don­ald Jr has no role in his fa­ther’s ad­min­is­tra­tion - he is help­ing run his cor­po­rate em­pire - Kush­ner is one of Trump’s clos­est ad­vi­sors. The Har­vard grad­u­ate is also the prog­eny of a pow­er­ful New York real es­tate fam­ily, and has long been in Trump’s in­ner cir­cle. It was ac­tu­ally an omis­sion on a gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity clear­ance ap­pli­ca­tion filed by Kush­ner that led to the rev­e­la­tion of the meet­ing be­tween him­self, Don­ald Jr, for­mer Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort and the Rus­sian lawyer. It also led Don­ald Jr to re­lease an email chain about the plan­ning of that meet­ing which is now be­ing cited as the most se­ri­ous ev­i­dence yet of al­leged col­lu­sion be­tween the Trump pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Rus­sia. In the June 2016 emails, Don­ald Jr ea­gerly agrees to a meet­ing with a Krem­lin-linked Rus­sian lawyer who is said to pos­sess in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton and in­vites Kush­ner and Manafort to come along.

Kush­ner, fil­ing a se­cu­rity clear­ance doc­u­ment known as an SF-86, ini­tially ne­glected to men­tion that he at­tended the meet­ing with lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya - as well as con­tacts he had with sev­eral other Rus­sians, in­clud­ing Moscow’s am­bas­sador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. The meet­ing with Ve­sel­nit­skaya came to light only af­ter Kush­ner filed an amended SF-86 form. Ve­sel­nit­skaya con­firmed to CNN and MSNBC that Kush­ner at­tended the meet­ing but said he was there for only “seven to 10 min­utes” and she had never in­tended to hand over dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton any­way.

Rus­sia ties un­der mi­cro­scope

But even be­fore rev­e­la­tions of the Ve­sel­nit­skaya meet­ing came to light, Kush­ner’s other deal­ings with Rus­sian of­fi­cials have been fac­ing scru­tiny. Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post, Kush­ner - at a De­cem­ber 2016 meet­ing with Kislyak - raised the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up a se­cret and se­cure com­mu­ni­ca­tions link be­tween the Trump tran­si­tion team and the Krem­lin. That same month, Kush­ner also met with Sergey Gorkov, chief of Vneshe­conom­bank and a for­mer mem­ber of Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence. The bank, a key arm of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment, is un­der tough US sanc­tions.

The Post re­ported last month that Kush­ner’s fi­nances and busi­ness deal­ings were be­ing ex­am­ined as part of the probe led by spe­cial coun­sel and for­mer FBI direc­tor Robert Mueller into whether the Trump cam­paign teamed with Rus­sia to help tilt the pres­i­den­tial race in fa­vor of the bil­lion­aire ty­coon. And this week, the McClatchy news­pa­per group re­ported that con­gres­sional and Jus­tice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing into whether the Trump cam­paign helped Rus­sian cy­ber op­er­a­tives bom­bard key vot­ing dis­tricts with “fake news” about Clin­ton. Kush­ner was in charge of the Trump cam­paign’s dig­i­tal op­er­a­tions. He now plays a ma­jor role in shap­ing for­eign pol­icy.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin ap­proved a mas­sive ef­fort to swing the elec­tion to Trump, in­clud­ing hack­ing and leak­ing em­bar­rass­ing emails from Democrats. Trump has ve­he­mently de­nied any col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia and re­peat­edly claimed to be the vic­tim of a “witch hunt” by the me­dia and sore loser Democrats. — AFP

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