So, what did Robert Mueller find out about the president’s two family members/White House advisers?
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, has been a person of interest in the Mueller investigation largely due to his involvement in the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a lawyer connected to the Russian government.
The Mueller report, released on Thursday, documents Kushner’s contacts with figures in and related to the Russian government in multiple sections. It also includes some humorous details, such as when Kushner desperately tried to escape the “waste of time” Trump Tower meeting by getting his assistants to call him.
The president’s eldest daughter Ivanka Trump makes only a few, tangential appearances in the report.
Here’s a rundown of what the report has to say about the couple.
A think tank and dirt on Bill Clinton
The Mueller report contains a half-dozen pages describing contact between the Trump campaign and the Center for the National Interest (CNI), a think tank founded by Richard Nixon “with expertise in and connections to the Russian government.” Kushner communicated extensively with the center’s president and CEO Dimitri Simes, who “personally has many contacts with current and former Russian government officials.”
Kushner told the special counsel’s office that he first decided to seek Simes’ help during a CNI event in March 2016 because the Trump campaign was struggling to gain support from foreign policy experts. He and Simes had a one-on-one meeting thereafter to explore the possibility of forming a foreign policy advisory group for the campaign. They also planned a CNI event in which Trump would deliver a foreign policy speech. The report notes that CNI and the campaign collaborated on the speech:
In mid-April 2016, Kushner put Simes in contact with senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and forwarded to Simes an outline of the foreign-policy speech that Miller had prepared. Simes sent back to the Campaign bullet points with ideas for the speech that he had drafted with CNI Executive Director Paul Saunders and board member Richard Burt. Simes received subsequent draft outlines from Miller, and he and Saunders spoke to Miller by phone about substantive changes to the speech. It is not clear, however, whether CNI officials received an actual draft of the speech for comment…
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak attended the CNI event after Sime promised that there would be an opportunity to meet Trump. Kislyak briefly met Trump, as well as Kushner, who recalls the ambassador telling him, “we like what your candidate is saying … it’s refreshing.”
Kushner and Simes spoke periodically after the event, both in person and over the phone. Simes provided Kushner with unsolicited advice on Russia. One of the Kushner-Simes meetings regarded ways in which Trump could respond to Russia-related attacks from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Simes sent Kushner an email before the meeting with a “Russia Policy Memo” describing “what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.” The email also contained an offer for dirt on Bill Clinton:
In a cover email transmitting that memo and a phone call to set up the meeting, Simes mentioned “a well-documented story of highly questionable connections between Bill Clinton” and the Russian government, “parts of [which]” (according to Simes) had even been “discussed with the CIA and the FBI in the late 1990s and shared with the [Independent Counsel] at the end of the Clinton presidency.” Kushner forwarded the email to senior Trump Campaign officials Stephen Miller, Paul Manafort, and Rick Gates, with the note “suggestion only.”
Kushner later met with Simes to discuss the Clinton-related information. The report redacted what Simes told Kushner for “personal privacy” reasons. However, Kushner apparently believed that the information would not be useful to the campaign.
The Trump Tower meeting
As has been previously reported, Donald Trump Jr. invited Kushner and Paul Manafort to attend the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was promising derogatory information from the Russian government about Hillary Clinton. During the 20-minute meeting, Veselnitskaya stated that Americans with business in Russia had engaged in tax evasion and money laundering in the U.S. and Russia in donating profits to the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. Veselnitskaya admitted, however, that she was unable to trace the money and prove the crimes. Kushner at that point “became aggravated and asked ‘[w]hat are we doing here?’ ” He then escaped the meeting:
At some point in the meeting, Kushner sent an iMessage to Manafort stating “waste of time,” followed immediately by two separate emails to assistants at Kushner Companies with requests that they call him to give him an excuse to leave.”
The report comments on the prospect of prosecuting Kushner and Trump Jr. for the meeting:
In light of the unresolved legal questions about whether giving “documents and information” of the sort offered here constitutes a campaign contribution, Trump Jr. could mount a factual defense that he did not believe his response to the offer and the June 9 meeting itself violated the law. Given his less direct involvement in arranging the June 9 meeting, Kushner could likely mount a similar defense.
When the news media eventually found out about the meeting, former communication advisers Hope Hicks and Josh Raffel told Kushner and Ivanka Trump that the email chain setting up the meeting looked damaging. In a later meeting, Kushner reportedly came up with a strategy to respond but was rebuffed by Trump:
According to Hicks, Kushner said that he wanted to fill the President in on something that had been discovered in the documents he was to provide to the congressional committees involving a meeting with him, Manafort, and Trump Jr. Kushner brought a folder of documents to the meeting and tried to show them to the President , but the President stopped Kushner and said he did not want to know about it, shutting the conversation down.
Russian banking CEO reaches out
Kirill Dmitriev is a Russian national who was appointed CEO of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund and has close ties to Putin. Dmitriev was reportedly eager to meet members of the Trump administration shortly after the election and began working with Rick Gerson, a hedge fund manager who is friends with Kushner. Dmitriev and Gerson collaborated on a U.S.-Russia reconciliation proposal, which Gerson sent to Kushner, who then sent it to Steven Bannon and Rex Tillerson. Dmitriev implied to Gerson that he had cleared the proposal with Putin, though it did not get much attention in the Trump administration.
Kushner meets with the Russian ambassador
Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, also reached out to meet with Kushner shortly after the election. Kushner accepted the invitation and the two met on Nov. 30:
During the meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, Kushner expressed a desire on the part of the incoming Administration to start afresh with U.S.-Russian relations. Kushner also asked Kislyak to identify the best person (whether Kislyak or someone else) with whom to direct future discussions-someone who had contact with Putin and the ability to speak for him.
The next month, Kislyak told Kushner’s assistant that the best point of contact would be Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-owned bank VEB, which is currently subject to sanctions related to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Kushner, however, seems to have downplayed the meeting in his communications with the special counsel:
Kushner did not, however, recall any discussion during his meeting with Gorkov about the sanctions against VEB or sanctions more generally. Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one on the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.
At the start of the meeting, Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts: a painting and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner’s family originated.
Kushner and Gorkov differ in their account of the meeting. Kushner said it was meant to be diplomatic in purpose, going over deteriorating U.S.-Russia relations during the Obama presidency. However, VEB put out a public statement in 2017 suggesting that Gorkov met with Kushner to discuss business opportunities for Kushner Companies:
In contrast, in a 2017 public statement, VEB suggested Gorkov met with Kushner in Kushner’s capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies for the purpose of discussing business, rather than as part of a diplomatic effort. In particular, VEB characterized Gorkov’s meeting with Kushner as part of a series of “roadshow meetings” with “representatives of major US banks and business circles,” which included “negotiations ” and discussion of the “most promising business lines and sectors.”
The investigation concluded that Kushner and Gorkov did not have any substantial follow-up meetings.
What about Ivanka?
Ivanka Trump makes a few brief cameos in the report, mostly related to nixed plans for a Trump property in Moscow. In 2014, she met with Emin Agalarov, a pop star who would later help to arrange the Trump Tower meeting. Trump toured a site he owned called “Crocus City” as a possible location for a Trump property. The report mentions that she also discussed architectural and design elements for the project with Michael Cohen.
In 2015, Lana Erchova, the wife of Russian electricity tycoon Dmitry Klokov, emailed Ivanka with an offer to assist the Trump campaign. The email read, in part, “If you ask anyone who knows Russian to google my husband Dmitry Klokov, you’ll see who he is close to and that he has done Putin’s political campaigns.” Ivanka forwarded the email to Michael Cohen, who Googled the name and incorrectly concluded that Klokov was a former Olympic weightlifter.
Ivanka was also present at a morning campaign meeting shortly before the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower incident, in which Trump Jr. said he had a lead on damaging information about Clinton:
Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign chairman, stated during interviews with the Office that in the days before June 9, 2016 Trump Jr. announced at a regular morning meeting of senior campaign staff and Trump family members that he had a lead on negative information about the Clinton Foundation. Gates believed that Trump Jr. said the information was coming from a group in Kyrgyzstan and that he was introduced to the group by a friend. Gates recalled that the meeting was attended by Trump Jr., Eric Trump, Paul Manafort, Hope Hicks, and, joining late, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner . According to Gates, Manafort warned the group that the meeting likely would not yield vital information and they should be careful. Hicks denied any knowledge of the June 9 meeting before 2017, and Kushner did not recall if the planned June 9 meeting came up at all earlier that week.
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