In Depth

Jared Kushner: The questions he didn't answer

Trump's son-in-law denies colluding with Russian officials, but his answers have led to even more questions

Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner faces more questions today about his connections with Russia after he admitted meeting officials from Moscow but said he hadn't "colluded" with them during the presidential election.

Kushner issued an 11-page statement on Monday that goes to great length to separate him from a 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr arranged with a Russian lawyer to get "dirt" on the team's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. 

His appearance before the Senate intelligence committee yesterday was the first time a member of the President's inner circle has given evidence on the scandal.

However, Kushner's defence of his meetings with Russians has raised more questions than it answers, says Vox

"His descriptions of these meetings are incomplete, full of unconfirmed details, and at times directly contradictory of other sources' accounts of the same events."

So what is still to be answered?

How did Kushner not know what the Russian lawyer was offering?

Kushner confirmed meeting Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked lawyer said to have offered Trump Jr damaging information about Clinton, but claims to have arrived late, stayed only ten minutes and to have been unaware of the meeting’s agenda.

"The attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on US adoptions of Russian children," he said. "I had no idea why that topic was being raised… The meeting was a waste of time."

Kushner suggests he missed the part of the meeting in which the opposition research was discussed, says the Washington Post. "[His] statement takes exceptional care to separate him, with scalpel-like precision, from the now-notorious meeting."

He also claims he never discussed the meeting with Trump Jr afterwards, saying: "I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently."

But why didn't the meeting set off alarm bells for Kushner, and why didn't he report it sooner? Heather Timmons asks in Quartz, while former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin sys there is "zero chance" the men would go to a meeting if they did not expect it to have results.

Why did Kushner meet with a Kremlin-backed banker?

Weeks before Trump took office, Kushner met Sergei Gorkov, the chairman of ailing Russian bank Vnesheconombank, at the request of Sergey Kislyak, then Russian ambassador to the US.

Vnesheconombank's board, led by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, is made up entirely of government officials, the Financial Times reports, and is "essentially an instrument of the Kremlin".

Kushner claims he attended the meeting on behalf of Trump's transition team to "help advance the President's foreign policy goals" and that private business matters were never discussed.

However, the bank alleges he was acting as a representative of his personal real estate company.

"It is possible the meeting was entirely legal, although actually doing business with the bank would not have been," Evelyn N Farkas writes in the New York Times

"Because of the nature of Russian banks, either scenario raises troubling questions."

Sarah Posner of the Washington Post agrees. "Questions here abound," she says. "Why would Kushner feel compelled to take this meeting just because Kislyak had been insistent upon it? And did he realize, at the time or later, who Gorkov was, and why he might have wanted a meeting with the president-elect's son-in-law?"

Did Kushner try and set up a secret channel with Moscow?

Kushner is expected to face further questions on another meeting he had with the Russian ambassador in December, when, the Washington Post alleges, they discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin.

Former national security advisor Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign in February after giving misleading statements about his conversations with Kislyak, was also at the meeting.

"The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance," the Washington Post reported in May. "The FBI now considers the encounter to be of investigative interest."

Kushner's "apparent interest in establishing a secret channel with Moscow, rather than relying on US government systems, has added to the intrigue surrounding the Trump administration's relationship with Russia," continued the paper. "To some officials, it also reflects a staggering naivete."

Trump's son-in-law denies attempting to set up a secret back-channel, but admits asking if an existing communications network at the embassy could be used to relay information about Syria to the transition team.

Foreign policy analyst Rula Jebreal queried this in a tweet.

Why did he omit these meetings on his security clearance form?

Democrats are calling for Kushner's security clearance to be revoked after it emerged he failed to disclose any meetings with Russian officials on his application form for security clearance to be able to attend classified meetings. He blames this on an administrative error made by one of his assistants.

"It was prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication," he said, adding that all foreign contacts were omitted from the form, not just the Russian dealings.

Intentionally submitting false information is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Kushner will be asked about this when he appears before a separate congressional panel today.

His legal team may have hoped that yesterday's statement would put suspicion surrounding his links to Russia to bed, says Vox.

However, it adds: "It seems more likely that the opposite will be true: that the unanswered questions in this statement will lead to even closer scrutiny of one of the president's top advisers."


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