The Slatest

Washington Post Reports White House Official Is a Person of Interest in Russia Probe. Who Is It?

A member of the Secret Service’s Uniformed Division sits in his car outside the White House Jan. 26, 2015, in Washington.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

For those of us who depend on daily bombshells about Donald Trump scandals to maintain our morale, yesterday was a bit of letdown. The New York Times story about fired FBI Director James Comey’s unease with Trump would have been a big deal in another era, but in the current climate it was like a maintenance dose of methadone. This afternoon, however, both the Times and the Washington Post delivered the good stuff. The Times reports that Trump told Russian officials that firing Comey—who he called “a real nut job”—took the Russia-related pressure off him. And the Washington Post reports that the Russia probe reaches a current White House official.

The Washington Post scoop is more significant. “The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest,” it says, “showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.” The official in question, it adds, is “someone close to the president.” This could be extremely important, because until now, it’s appeared possible that the probe might not go beyond former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former campaign manager Paul Manafort. If that were the case, it might be possible for Trump to quarantine it. But the higher it goes, the more trouble he is in.

So who is this person of interest? Based on previous reporting, the most likely suspects are White House strategist and former Breitbart head Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. McClatchy has already reported that the FBI is looking into the role of Breitbart in amplifying Russian propaganda during the campaign. Kushner is already known to have failed to disclose his contacts with Russian officials on his application for top-secret security clearance; he also reportedly urged Trump to fire Comey. Further, last month the New York Times reported that Bannon had told confidents “that he believes Mr. Kushner’s contact with Russians, and his expected testimony before Congress on the subject, will become a major distraction for the White House.”

Personally, as much as I would love to see the slovenly fascist Bannon driven from public life, I hope the target is Kushner. Trump has gotten to a point where he barely trusts anyone beyond his family. If he can’t trust his family, either, his already severely impaired presidency will be further imperiled. There are days like yesterday when it feels like maybe, if the investigations into Trump are inconclusive and Republicans remain steadfast in supporting their wretched leader, the administration just might be able to muddle through. And then there are days like today, when it feels like justice is coming. Maybe Kushner should get moving on prison reform while he has the chance.