As the scandal over the Donald Trump campaign ties to Russia widened on Thursday, Trump's own son-in-law, Jared Kushner, — a New York real estate mogul and newspaper publisher who now serves as one of Trump's top White House advisers — has now been revealed as part of the Russian web. According to the New York Times, Kushner held a secret meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December at Trump Tower in New York — a meeting that may have been designed to undermine Russia policy being set by President Barack Obama as he prepared retaliation for Russia's interference in the 2016 United States presidential election.
"The meeting in December came at a crucial time, just as the Obama White House was preparing to sanction Russia and publicly make its case that Moscow had interfered with the 2016 election," the Times reported on Thursday.
U.S. intelligence agencies say that the Russian interference was designed to insure that Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election.
The 36-year-old Kushner has been married to Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, since 2009.
The White House confirmed that the previously undisclosed meeting — first reported in a New Yorker Magazine article this week — had indeed taken place, saying that the purpose of the clandestine meeting was to "establish a line of communication" with the Russian government.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also attended, and, in fact, facilitated the meeting with Kislyak, according to the Times report. Flynn was fired by Trump on February 13 after reports were published revealing that Flynn had unauthorized conversations with Kislyak prior to Trump becoming president and later lied about those contacts, denying that they had taken place, when asked directly about the matter by Vice President Mike Pence.
Earlier on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Justice Department investigations into the ties between Trump and Russia, and faced demands that he resign leveled by top Democrats in congress after reports revealed that he, too, had conversations with Kislyak last year — conversations that he then denied while under oath during his Senate confirmation hearings.
The 66-year-old Kislyak is a career diplomat who joined the Foreign Ministry of the Soviet Union in 1977, as the Cold War between the United States and U.S.S.R. was still at a high level of intensity. His chief area of specialty has been arms control negotiations.
But according to a profile of Kislyak by CNN, published on Thursday, the diplomat has another job as well — spy. More precisely, according to CNN, the Russian envoy is known as a top recruiter of foreign spies.
The Russian government has denied the spying and spy-recrutment allegations against its U.S. ambassador, dismissing the report as "fake news." But in its own profile of Kislyak on Thursday, Politico described the ambassador as "Washington's most dangerous diplomat."
Trump himself has also dismissed all reports of his own ties to Russia as "fake news."
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White House spokesperson Hope Hicks dismissed the Kushner meeting with Kislyak as routine, saying the following.
"Jared has had meetings with many other foreign countries and representatives — as many as two dozen other foreign countries' leaders and representatives."
Earlier Trump advisers, whose perviously hidden Russian contacts have become public, have also initially dismissed the significance of the meetings.
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