Jared Kushner is at the center of a quickly growing Russia scandal, with a new report that the top White House aide tried to set up a secret line of communication with the Kremlin and growing speculation that he could end up in prison.
Last week, reports indicated that Kushner was under federal investigation for his role in Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign and immediately after his surprising victory. A new report indicated that Kushner played an active role, including meeting with Russia’s ambassador to the United States to set up a secret line of communication between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reportedly told Kremlin superiors that Jared Kushner proposed the communication during a secret meeting at Trump Tower — one that was caught on surveillance by U.S. intelligence, the Washington Post reported.
Also at the meeting was Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who was fired by Trump just 24 days into the job after it was revealed that Flynn lied about speaking with the Russian ambassador on the day then-President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2016 election.
As the Washington Post noted, intelligence experts say the move would show “staggering naivete” on the part of Jared Kushner if true. Russian officials are under close surveillance by the FBI, and word of the meeting seemed almost certain to leak out.
Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin https://t.co/pb9txA858U
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 26, 2017
Jared Kushner has reportedly become a person of interest in the FBI’s investigation of the Donald Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The inquiry is the deepest into Trump’s inner circle yet, though it is not yet clear if Kushner is under criminal investigation himself.
The reports have led to growing speculation that Jared Kushner could face prison, but there does not appear to be any evidence pointing in that direction — at least, not yet.
Jared Kushner and Russia's US ambassador discussed setting up a secret communications channel, according to a report https://t.co/NPvnog2fyK
— New York Post (@nypost) May 27, 2017
As NBC News reported, he is considered only a “person of interest” — a term that has no legal definition and does not signify that he could face criminal charges.
“The officials said Kushner is in a different category from former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who are formally considered subjects of the investigation. According to the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, ‘A ‘subject’ of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.’ “
At the same time, there was speculation among some experts and foreign affairs correspondents that Kushner could indeed be facing prison time if the investigation continues to unravel.
You don't forget a meeting like that. Kushner didn't reveal it. Forget his security clearance. That's punishable by five years in jail.
— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) May 27, 2017
But it is clear that Kushner remains at the center of the investigation. Back in April, it was revealed that he failed to disclose dozens of meetings with foreign officials on his security clearance application, The Hill reported. That included the meeting with Kislyak, the report added.
“Among the meetings that Kushner omitted from his national security questionnaire were one with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and another with Sergey Gorkov, the CEO of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank,” The Hill claimed, citing reports from the New York Times.
Kushner has most recently come under scrutiny for reportedly failing to disclose millions of dollars worth of art on his financial disclosure forms.
Kushner has emerged as one of the most important figures in the White House, deep within Donald Trump’s inner circle and taking the lead on many initiatives. It was Kushner who ushered through a more than $100 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, for example.
While there is rampant speculation that Jared Kushner could face prison for his role in the collusion with Russia, the White House continues to deny any improper contact with Russia. There are also no reports that Kushner could face formal charges or even that he is under criminal investigation. So the rumors of prison time for the top White House adviser remains just that — rumors.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]