Kushner’s revising of foreign contacts carries risk
WASHINGTON – Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is likely to be interested in Jared C. Kushner’s evolving disclosure of foreign contacts during the security clearance process, legal analysts said, and it is possible that the president’s son-in-law could be in legal jeopardy for not fully detailing the interactions from the start.
Kushner, 36, who is married to Ivanka Trump and is one of President Trump’s closest advisers, has filed three updates to his national security questionnaire since submitting it in midJanuary, according to people familiar with the matter. That is significant because the document, known as an SF86, warns that those who submit false information could be charged with a federal crime and face up to five years in prison.
Prosecutions for filing erroneous SF86 forms are rare, although the Justice Department has brought cases against those with intentional omissions, and people have been denied security clearance for incorrect forms, legal analysts said.
Under the microscope of Mueller’s investigation, the analysts said, Kushner’s mistakes might be viewed as evidence that he met with Russian officials, then tried to keep anyone from finding out. His representatives contend that the omissions were honest errors that were corrected quickly.
“Mueller’s task is examining whether he thinks there’s evidence that this was not simply a mistake or an oversight, but was actually a deliberate attempt to conceal these contacts,” said Randall D. Eliason, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in public corruption and government fraud. “And if that’s the case, that’s definitely potentially a crime.”
The SF-86 is a 127-page form that requests voluminous information about a person’s employment history, finances, family, travel and other matters. The form asks several questions about foreign contacts, requiring applicants to list any “close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven years,” along with any contact with a representative of a foreign government. The form is a part of a person’s background check for certain federal jobs and is meant to ascertain whether the person can be awarded a security clearance.
Legal analysts said that it is not uncommon for people to forget information; nor is it uncommon for officials to encounter difficulty in the security clearance process.
Kushner’s national security questionnaire was first submitted Jan. 18, although a person familiar with his account said that his office did so prematurely, and the form did not list his foreign contacts and got the dates of his graduate degrees and his father-inlaw’s address wrong.
The next day, Kushner’s representatives submitted an addendum acknowledging that he had foreign contacts and saying that he would willingly detail them, the person said.
At the time, Kushner’s representatives had not compiled a list of the contacts, but they did so and submitted another addendum with them in mid-May, before an interview with FBI background investigators, the person said. The addendum detailed more than 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which came during the presidential transition, according to Jamie S. Gorelick, one of Kushner’s attorneys.
“Jared was trying to be fully compliant and upfront and transparent in this process, and when he learned that the document had been prematurely submitted, he was very clear that we should correct the record on that,” Gorelick said.
On June 21, Kushner submitted another addendum; this one listed the meeting he attended – along with Donald J. Trump Jr. and Paul J. Manafort, who was manager of the Trump presidential campaign at the time – with a Russian lawyer who Trump Jr. believed had damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
A person close to Kushner said he did not remember the meeting with the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, when submitting his list of foreign contacts in mid-May. The person said his lawyers discovered correspondence about it while reviewing emails to turn over information to congressional investigators. Gorelick said the meeting was included “out of an abundance of caution.”
“As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows,” Gorelick said.
Mark S. Zaid, a national security lawyer, said he believes that a disclosure of the meeting would not have been required, because Veselnitskaya is not now a government lawyer.