Kush­ner’s re­vis­ing of for­eign con­tacts car­ries risk

The Buffalo News - - WASHINGTON NEWS - By Matt Zapo­to­sky

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.

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