Two bombshell reports came out last night that revealed information on Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his alleged contacts with Russia. They are very similar allegations that disgraced former National Security adviser Michael Flynn are facing. It may not be the allegations specifically that get Jared Kushner in trouble, but, like Michael Flynn, his lack of disclosure on the Russian contacts and Russian connections could be problematic.
At least one Congress member has gone on record to say Jared Kushner's Russia problems with lack of disclosure are considered federal crimes.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Jared Kushner discussed setting up a back channel of communication with Russia in an apparent move to hide such discussions from United States intelligence.
Additionally, Reuters reported yesterday that seven current and former United States officials have gone on record to say that Jared Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The officials told Reuters that Jared Kushner's Russia problems came under the spotlight for the FBI when the FBI began investigating Michael Flynn for similar acts.
Contact with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and failure to disclose this, is the same reason Michael Flynn was fired.
Best selling author and expert in United States intelligence, as well as a Navy Senior Chief, Malcolm Nance went on MSNBC yesterday immediately after the reports to say, if these reports are true, "It's indicative of espionage activity."
Malcolm Nance is not the only prominent figure speaking out about the seriousness of Jared Kushner's Russia problem. Congress member Rep. Ted Lieu of California has been very outspoken about a problematic disclosure situation with Jared Kushner, where Kushner reportedly lied on his security clearance form when taking a White House position.
To obtain a high-level code-word security clearance level, an SF86 security clearance form is filled out. Rep. Ted Lieu says that Jared Kushner lied on his, twice, and that these two lies are federal crimes.
Rep. Ted Lieu has also tweeted a copy of his own SF86 security form, that concludes with an oath upon signing the form. The oath reads as follows.
"My statements on this form, and on any attachments to it, are true, complete, and correct to the best of my knowledge and believe and are made in good faith … I understand that a knowing and willful false statement on this form can be punished by fine or imprisonment or both (18 U.S.C. 1001). I understand that intentionally withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information may have a negative effect on my security clearance, employment prospects, or job status, up to and including denial or revocation of my security clearance, or my removal and debarment from Federal service."
The federal code mentioned on the SF86 is Title 18 U.S.C. 1001. Cornell Law says that anyone who "Knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up any trick, scheme, or device, a material fact, makes any material false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation … shall be fined under this tile, imprisoned not more than five years."
Further, if the disclosure matter involves international or domestic terrorism, imprisoned not more than eight years, or both.
A disclosure crime is considered to be related to domestic or international terrorism under section 2331 of the Criminal Code. An act of terrorism under this code generally refers to violence or crimes such as abduction or kidnapping. But there is a provision for terrorism if, "that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State."
Also, Section 2331 states that terrorism can be considered if the acts "Influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion."
It is unlikely that Jared Kushner's acts would fall into this category unless his acts of contact with Russia had an impact or effect on American policy. That Malcolm Nance is referring to his acts as espionage highlights the seriousness of Jared Kushner's Russia problem.
The details of Jared Kushner's Russia problem pertain to alleged contacts with Russia. The Washington Post asserts that Jared Kushner and Sergey Kislyak wanted to set up a secret back channel of communication that could not be picked up by United States intercepts. The natural question Americans would have on this is why?
Not only did they want to set up this back channel allegedly, but they also wanted it to be top secret, and manage a flow of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, using Kremlin diplomatic facilities. So this would be a Russia hosted secret back channel of communication, if true.
This occurred before Donald Trump took the oath of office. The proposal was allegedly made on December 1 or December 2 at Trump Tower, in a meeting that included Sergey Kislyak, Michael Flynn, and Jared Kushner. This, according to intercepts obtained of Russian communications that were reviewed by American officials.
The meeting was disclosed by the White House in March, but the significance of the meeting was downplayed. Also in March, we had the activity of House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes making a midnight run to the White House for as-yet-unknown reasons.
Wiretapping was a significant topic of conversation in the days following Nunes' midnight White House run. Devin Nunes also held a very peculiar White House press conference on the matter, saying he felt is was important to brief the president on new intelligence he had obtained about someone close to him in the White House.
At this time the Trump transition team was already under investigation by the FBI, and the House Intelligence Committee of which Devin Nunes is chairman. His actions at the White House that evening and the day followed have since been described as akin to a prosecutor in a criminal trial providing the defense with evidence before taking it to the prosecuting body.
Devin Nunes has since recused himself from the Trump Russia investigation as a result of this incident. His specific reasons for recusing himself are unknown. When asked for comment on these allegations, the White House declined to comment, as did the Russian embassy and legal representation for Michael Flynn.
Also recused from the Trump Russia investigation is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He recused himself when it came out that he failed to disclose his own meetings with Sergey Kislyak. Jeff Sessions also reportedly did not disclose critical information on his SF86 form, which, again, is a federal crime.
It is not unusual for a new administration to set up channels of communication, hosted on American soil. It is unusual for this to occur with a transition team before the oath of any office is taken place. It is also unusual for this to occur on foreign soil, or to be hosted by a foreign state.
The Washington Post came upon this information at first through an anonymous letter sent to them in December 2016. The letter has been examined by United States officials familiar with the FBI investigation into Trump Russian ties. These officials say the information in this letter is consistent with some of the current investigation results.
One part of the letter included Jared Kushner acknowledging that meeting with Russian officials publicly would be "politically sensitive" but "necessary for the Trump team to be able to continue their communication with Russian government officials."
It is unclear why the Trump transition team was insistent on communication with Russian government officials at all, and so insistent that a secret back channel was developed.
It's not the only unfortunate news for Jared Kushner's Russia problems today. Reuters reports that at least seven United States officials are saying that Jared Kushner had repeated telephone contact with Russia between April and November 2016.
The contacts were reportedly two phone calls that occurred in that time frame. Jared Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into Trump Russia collusion allegations early this year, according to one current and one former law enforcement official.
While his contacts with Russia are being investigated, he reportedly himself is not a subject of the investigation, one current law enforcement official says. Jared Kushner's attorney of record right now is former Deputy Attorney General under the Clinton Administration, Jamie Gorelick.
She told Reuters that Kushner did not recall any of these contacts, saying that he had made thousands of phone calls in this period and could not recall these specific conversations. Jamie Gorelick is a well known and well-respected name in the FBI circle and legal arena, having once been on the short-list to be the next FBI Director when former FBI Director Robert Mueller was passing on the torch.
She also has since 2003 worked with Robert Mueller at the same law firm, Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. It is unclear at this time if this represents a conflict, as Gorelick has been attorney of record for Jared Kushner since last fall. Robert Mueller has only just been named as special prosecutor and is equally respected on both sides of the aisle.
Jamie Gorelick affiliates with the Democratic party and has reportedly been Jared Kushner's lawyer since the fall of 2016. She successfully helped him navigate nepotism laws for working in the White House, according to the New York Times.
By not taking a salary for their work in the White House, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump avoid the violation of nepotism laws. Under Title 5, Section 3110 of the United States code, a public official, such as a president, can not "appoint, employ, promote, or advance, or advocate for, anybody who is a relative."
As far as Jared Kushner's current legal problem, Jamie Gorelick said the following.
"Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked Reuters for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information."
Congress member Rep. Ted Lieu said on Twitter in light of this information, "ONLY reason Kushner would want secret communications with Kremlin is to hide information from US intelligence. Whose side is he on?"
Rep. Lieu also said that Kushner should be nowhere near the White House ever again and that, "If this is true, Kushner needs to resign. He should also be prosecuted for lying on his security clearance form, a federal crime." Rep. Lieu also finds it "damning" that Jared Kushner has not denied either The Washington Post report or the Reuters report.
Reuters had first reported last week that a secret back channel of communication between Trump transition and Russia existed. Washington Post was the first to report that Jared Kushner was involved in that development. Reuters notes that there are at minimum 18 undisclosed calls and emails between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin over a seven-month period prior to the November 8 election.
Reuters has six sources saying that "multiple contacts" between Kushner and Sergey Kislyak have occurred, beyond the two alleged phone calls between April and November.
Rep. Ted Lieu refers to Jared Kushner's Russia problems as federal crimes. Intelligence and military expert Malcolm Nance calls Jared Kushner's problems espionage, and says that "anyone in that office should have their clearance pulled right now." As the Trump Russia scandal deepens, the future of this administration remains uncertain.
[Feature Image by Andrew Harnik/AP Images]