Dispatch June 3, 2019

Kushner Knew Enough to Lie

Playing dumb has been one of Jared Kushner’s favorite tactics, and it was on full display in his viral train wreck Axios interview. Asked about the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, which he attended, Kushner claimed that he “didn’t know what the hell it was about” at the time and argued that saying he should have contacted the FBI was “Monday-morning quarterbacking.”

But there are two basic problems.

First, he apparently knew enough to lie. He repeatedly concealed details about his contacts with Kremlin-linked officials, including

Second, the Trump campaign was repeatedly told during the campaign about Russian interference: by the press, by the intelligence community, and by the Russians themselves. There’s simply no way Kushner could have not known about Russian interference during his many meetings and contacts with Kremlin-linked officials, on June 9 and afterward.

Here’s Kushner’s dubious know-nothing June 9 defense:

  • First, Kushner claimed he hadn’t known the subject of the June 9 meeting going in. But, as interviewer Jonathan Swan noted, the email Kushner received about the meeting “had Russia in the subject line.”
  • Kushner also said he was too busy during the campaign running his private company—which at the time was actively seeking a bailout from multiple foreign governments—to pay attention to what meetings he was attending.
  • Next, he refused to acknowledge that anything at the meeting seemed problematic, despite the fact that according to multiple attendees, Donald Trump Jr. began the meeting by

But there’s no way Kushner couldn’t have known about Russian interference.

  • The Russians told the Trump campaign about it, multiple times. In addition to the June 9 meeting, Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos was informed that the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails.” Guccifer 2.0, who at the time had been widely
  • It was covered in the press, and the campaign discussed it on the record. On June 14, 2016, The Washington Post reported that Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee. By July, the press was asking the Trump campaign about Russian hacking. This led to Trump’s infamous press conference calling for Russia to steal Clinton’s emails and campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s infamously painful denial of financial ties.
  • The FBI told the campaign about it. On August 17, 2016, then-candidate Trump received his first intelligence briefing, where he was specifically warned that “foreign adversaries, including Russia, would probably try to spy on his campaign,” and that they should “alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures.”
  • The U.S. government told the country about it. On July 26, 2016, the U.S. intelligence community told the White House they had “high confidence of Russian involvement” in the DNC hack. On October 7, 2016, the IC formally accused the Russian government of the hack, saying the leaked emails were “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

Kushner specifically knew that meeting with Russians could cause problems.

  • According to the Mueller report, in late April, Dmitri Simes, who “personally has many contacts with current and former government officials” (Vol. 1, p. 104), “raised the issue of Russian contacts with Kushner, advised that it was bad optics for the Campaign to develop hidden Russian contacts, and told Kushner both that the Campaign should not highlight Russia as an issue and should handle any contacts with Russia with care” (Vol. 1, p. 108).
  • In May 2016, Kushner specifically shot down an opportunity to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin because he couldn’t “verify” that the offer was genuine (Vol. 1, page 108). That seems to contradict his current defense that he couldn’t be bothered to even read an email’s subject line before taking a meeting.

Kushner knew enough to lie and conceal his contacts with Russia.

  • Kushner repeatedly failed to disclose foreign contacts on his SF-86 US government security clearance form, which contributed to his security clearance initially being rejected. These contacts included meetings with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak reportedly to discuss “the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin” and meetings with Sergei Gorkov, the chairman of a sanctioned, Russian state-owned bank.
  • According to Congress, Kushner also received, and failed to report, emails offering a “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite” and inside information about WikiLeaks in September 2016, weeks after an intel briefing where the Trump campaign was told to “alert the FBI about any suspicious overtures to their campaigns,” especially if they involved “foreign adversaries, including Russia.”
  • More recently, he’s tried to shift the narrative, dismissing Russian interference as “a couple of Facebook ads” and claiming that the Mueller investigation did more damage to the country than an unprecedented attack on American democracy by a hostile foreign power.

Kushner has used the know-nothing defense before.

  • When the June 9 meeting was first revealed, Kushner claimed he “did not remember the meeting and certainly did not remember it as one with anyone who had to be included” in his disclosures to the government.
  • When he left more than 100 other foreign contacts off his security-clearance paperwork, he chalked it up to a combination of administrative errors and simply forgetting the meetings had taken place.
  • When Mueller’s team asked Kushner about his Gorkov meeting, the president’s son-in-law claimed 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”—something his own assistant Avraham Berkowitz disputed, claiming he had “googled Gorkov’s name and told Kushner that Gorkov appeared to be a banker” (Vol. 1, p. 161-162).

Most tellingly, present-day Kushner declined to commit to alerting the FBI about future foreign influence, a disturbing position emerging Trump’s personal lawyer ramps up his efforts to get a foreign government to undermine one of Trump’s potential 2020 opponents.

Jared Kushner is a threat to national security. Based on what we know, he could be either:

  • dangerously naïve and easily compromised, making him an attractive target for foreign governments to exploit;
  • lying to help cover up his potentially criminal behavior, which would make him vulnerable to compromise, or;
  • both.