Did Jared Kushner Meet With Russia's Ambassador? His Security Clearance Forms Omitted It
Washington, D.C., is still very much roiling over the idea that Russia allegedly worked to elect President Donald Trump. The investigation into the matter, as well as possible Russian ties held by the Trump campaign and transition team remain under way (although thanks to Rep. Devin Nunes' stepping down, who will lead it or how it will progress is a bit of a mystery). One key interview, though, is still to be held — the one with Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner. And now there's another reason why: Did Kushner meet with the Russian ambassador? Apparently he did. (Kushner's lawyer describes the omission as an error.)
Most importantly, he didn't include it on his security clearance forms back in January, which he was required to submit to be granted the top-level clearance that allows him to learn the state secrets needed to make foreign policy decisions together with President Trump. The New York Times reported that he "did not mention dozens of contacts with foreign leaders or officials in recent months" when filling out the forms — a very serious issue. The most noteworthy foreign contact, or course, was the ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
It's not necessarily news that Kushner sat down with Kislyak. This is one of the meetings that Michael Flynn was also present at (remember how well those turned out for the former national security adviser?). What is now of interest, nevertheless, is his failure to explicitly spell out their contact in the security clearance application. Kushner also met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a big Russian bank that is under sanctions (he also graduated from Russia’s spy school).
This could all be an innocent mistake. Jamie Gorelick, Kushner's lawyer and a Democrat who worked in President Bill Clinton's Justice Department, defended him Thursday. She told The Times that it was submitted prematurely to the FBI and that more information was to be added later. Gorelick also said that Kushner just has interim security clearance until he has an interview with the FBI.
Gorelick further defended the issue by providing a statement of what Kushner told the FBI during the transition period:
During the presidential campaign and transition period, I served as a point-of-contact for foreign officials trying to reach the president-elect. I had numerous contacts with foreign officials in this capacity. … I would be happy to provide additional information about these contacts.
The issue at hand now is whether these meetings were accidentally omitted or whether this was a "knowing falsification." If that were the case, The Times reports that would constitute a felony and the punishment could be up to five years in prison or fines.
Either way, this omission is troublesome and should not be taken lightly. Now that Nunes has stepped down from the investigation, an independent prosecutor needs to get to the bottom of Trump's team's Russia connections once and for all.