The FBI is scrutinizing Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as part of its Russia probe, NBC News reports.
Investigators are interested in Kushner’s separate meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and banker Sergey Gorkov in December 2016, The Washington Post reports, although the newspaper writes that Kushner has not been accused of doing anything wrong.
As NBC explains, Gorkov studied at the training school for Russia’s Federal Security Service, an intelligence agency known as the FSB. He is also the chairman of VneshEconomBank, which is owned by Moscow and has been sanctioned by the U.S. since mid 2014.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, attended the meeting with Kushner and Kislyak in December. Later that month, Kushner sent a deputy to meet with the Russian ambassador. In yet another meeting, Flynn met Kislyak one-on-one and the two discussed ending U.S. sanctions against Russia—something Flynn later reportedly misrepresented to Vice President Mike Pence. When details of their meeting leaked, Trump asked Flynn to resign.
Kushner, a key White House adviser and the husband of the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, did not initially disclose his meetings with Kislyak or Gorkov on his security clearance forms, according to The New York Times. His lawyer said this was an accident and explained the forms would be changed to reflect the meetings.
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Kushner, told The Post.
The FBI is investigating the Trump team and Russia on a number of fronts. One involves Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s alleged coordination with Moscow. There’s also a separate probe into possible financial crimes, though the details remain murky, and yet another investigation into Flynn’s undisclosed dealings with foreign countries.
Sarah Isgur Flore, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, told The Post: “I can’t confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or subjects of investigations.”
The investigation into links between Trump’s campaign and Moscow is now being spearheaded by a special counsel, former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, while the Pentagon’s top watchdog is running the Flynn probe.
NBC News reports that Kushner is “in a different category” from Flynn and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who have received grand jury subpoenas. It’s unclear if federal investigators have requested any records from him.
According to The Post: “Kushner has already come under scrutiny for his family possibly benefiting personally from his proximity to his leader-of-the-free-world father-in-law. His sister earlier this month mentioned Kushner’s advisory role in the White House while pitching Chinese investors on a New Jersey housing development.”
If it does lead down a path to corruption allegations, though, there will be plenty of I-told-you-sos.
“You’ve seen it in countries all over the world where they’ve appointed family members, whether it’s their son, daughter, in-laws — it provides for tremendous opportunities for corruption,” Shruti Shah, an international corruption expert at Coalition for Integrity, told HuffPost last month. “People who want to curry favor find their way to provide favors to family members as a way to get closer to the person in power.”
It’s possible that Kushner’s familial relationship with Trump is part of the reason he’s been subjected to more scrutiny than any other White House adviser in this probe. And if his scrutiny becomes more intense and there appears to be some validity to it, it will reinforce a central reason why ethics experts say these kinds of arrangements are to be avoided in the first place.