President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is being scrutinized by both congressional and federal investigators for failing to disclose several meetings he had with different Russian individuals.
Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to Trump, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December during the transition period. At that meeting, Kushner reportedly requested that a secret back channel for communications with Moscow be set up for the president-elect. Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn also attended the meeting, which took place at Trump Tower.
Interviewed Friday on MSNBC, former acting CIA Director John McLaughlan commented that such an action on Kushner and Flynn’s part would be considered “espionage” by America’s foreign spy agency.
Kushner also met with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov in December, an unusual move considering Gorkov’s background and lack of diplomatic credentials. Gorkov runs Vnesheconombank, a national development bank that is controlled by the Russian government and has been linked to spying operations inside the United States.
In 2016, a Russian spy was caught impersonating a bank official working out of Vnesheconombank’s New York location, and was subsequently arrested and charged. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who oversaw the case, was fired by President Trump in March, almost exactly a year after the Russian spy was exposed.
Gorkov is also a known associate and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
President Trump, who just returned from his first official trip overseas, expressed continued support for Kushner.
“Jared is doing a great job for the country,” Trump said. “I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.”
White house spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, also down-played any concerns the public may have about Kushner’s meetings, saying that it was in the interest of better relations with Russia.
“Mr. Kushner was acting in his capacity as a transition official and had many similar discussions with foreign representatives after the election,” Hicks said in a statement.
“In these meetings, Mr. Kushner worked to build relationships that would help advance the president’s foreign policy goals. For example, he also started conversations with leaders from Saudi Arabia that led to the president’s recent successful international trip.”
Although both Trump and his spokespeople are publicly sticking by Kushner, rumors are circling that a staff shakeup in the White House is imminent.
On Tuesday morning, White House communications director Mike Dubke announced he will resign from his post in the near-future.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
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