The Recruitment of Jared Kushner

The other day, DOJ provided its sixth installment of Mueller 302s in response to BuzzFeed and CNN’s FOIAs. The batch includes files that have previously been referred to other agencies, such as multiple pages from Steve Bannon’s February 14, 2018 interview that were sent to DOD, which has determined they must be protected under b5 (deliberative) and one b4 (trade secrets) exemption.

A whole set of previously referred interview reports pertain to Russian outreach to Jared Kushner. These reports include:

In addition, the 302 of Richard Burt and some other people from Center for National Interest — Simes’ think tank — were released.

As a reminder, CNI served as the host for Trump’s first foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016. There were allegations that CNI provided feedback on the speech and questions about whom Sergey Kislyak spoke with at the speech. Simes continued to advise Kushner on policy pertaining to Russia throughout the campaign. When Kushner wanted to vet an email from Vladimir Putin immediately after the election, he reached out to Simes for Kislyak’s contact information. Then, a series of meetings arranged via Kislyak during the Transition, during one of which Kushner asked for a back channel, resulted in a meeting with the head of sanctioned bank, Vnesheconombank, Sergei Gorkov.

Parallel to the Kislyak-led effort, Russia made three other attempts to establish a back channel during the Transition. One, via Robert Foresman reaching out to Mike Flynn, one via CNI Board Member and Alfa Bank board member Richard Burt through Simes, and a third — the most successful — in which Kirill Dmitriev reached out first via George Nader and then through Kushner’s college buddy Rick Gerson.

None of these newly released interview reports have exemption markings akin to the ones on Bannon’s reprocessed pages describing which agency they had been referred to (which may suggest they were reviewed by CIA), but they seem to pertain to the cultivation of the President’s son-in-law.

To be very clear: while Dmitriev, using Gerson, succeeded in setting the agenda for the first phone call between Putin and Trump, the Mueller Report found no evidence that Russia succeeded in using CNI has a back channel.

The investigation did not identify evidence that the Campaign passed or received any messages to or from the Russian government through CNI or Simes.

That said, all of this remains appears to remain under active investigation. Between Simes’ first and second interviews, over 200 redactions cite a b7A exemption for an ongoing investigation; many of those also cite b3, which may indicate classified information. 25 redactions in Burt’s interview cite b7A and there are a number of b3 exemptions. Four paragraphs in what may be a continuation of the Simes discussion in Kushner’s interview include b7A redactions. There are also b7A redactions (some also marked b3) in the interview reports of fellow CNI employees, Jacob Heilbrunn and Paul Saunders.

And while the available reports suggest Kushner was just an easy mark in all of this (as he likely is for all the foreign countries he negotiates with — there’s nothing unique about Russia here), there are a few details about how this got written up in the Mueller Report worth noting. For example, the Mueller Report describes Kushner reaching out to Simes because they had so little support from experienced foreign policy people.

Kushner told the Office that the event came at a time when the Trump Campaign was having trouble securing support from experienced foreign policy professionals and that, as a result, he decided to seek Simes’s assistance during the March 14 event.

The underlying 302 report describes Kushner “admitt[ing] to ‘pursuing’ SIMES.”

A paragraph in the Mueller Report describing Kushner’s periodic contact with Simes during the campaign depicts Kushner as the passive recipient of Simes’ attention.

Between the April 2016 speech at the Mayflower Hotel and the presidential election, Jared Kushner had periodic contacts with Simes.648 Those contacts consisted of both in-person meetings and phone conversations, which concerned how to address issues relating to Russia in the Campaign and how to move forward with the advisory group of foreign policy experts that Simes had proposed.649 Simes recalled that he, not Kushner, initiated all conversations about Russia, and that Kushner never asked him to set up back-channel conversations with Russians.650 According to Simes, after the Mayflower speech in late April, Simes 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 Russians with care.651 Kushner generally provided a similar account of his interactions with Simes.652

648 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

649 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

650 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27.

651 Simes 3/8/18 302, at 27. During this period of time, the Campaign received a request for a high-level Campaign official to meet with an officer at a Russian state-owned bank “to discuss an offer [that officer] claims to be canying from President Putin to meet with” candidate Trump. NOSC00005653 (5/17/16 Email, Dearborn to Kushner (8: 12 a.m.)). Copying Manafort and Gates, Kushner responded, “Pass on this. A lot of people come claiming to carry messages. Very few are able to verify. For now I think we decline such meetings. Most likely these people go back home and claim they have special access to gain importance for themselves. Be careful.” NOSC00005653 (5/17/16 Email, Kushner to Dearborn).

652 Kushner 4/11 /18 302, at 11-13.

But the unredacted details in Kushner’s 302 are of interest. They describe Simes sending Kushner a “memo on what Mr. Trump may want to say about Russia.” And in his interview, Kushner described never receiving information from Simes that could be “operationalized” (this passage appears before a description of Simes floating dirt on Clinton).

Similarly, the Mueller Report does not include something that appears in Kushner’s 302 describing the President’s son-in-law asking for a back channel, that Kushner asked to be connected with people “who can make decisions.” Days later, of course, Kislyak started to set up the meeting with Sergei Gorkov.

The Report notes that these meetings took place in either Kushner’s office or that of Colony Capital (Tom Barrack’s office). But the passage from Kushner’s 302 which the Report cites for the location of the Gorkov meeting (page 19) remains redacted.

The one-on-one meeting took place the next day, December 13, 2016, at the Colony Capital building in Manhattan, where Kushner had previously scheduled meetings. 1152

1152 Kushner 4/11/18 302, at 19; NOSC00000130-135 (12/12/16 Email, Kushner to Berkowitz).

And there’s a detail made public since the Mueller Report that suggests Kushner may not have been entirely candid in his interview: in testimony before Congress last year, Rex Tillerson disputed a key detail from Kushner’s testimony — that he had passed along a document from Dmitriev shared via Rick Gerson. There’s no record Mueller interviewed Tillerson.

To be fair, DOJ has released two details not included in the Mueller Report, which by the standards of this FOIA release is generous. Yet Jared also happens to be a top Trump advisor — the beneficiary of absurd levels of nepotism — involved in every aspect of foreign policy. He could not obtain security clearance on his own. And the details of these FOIA releases suggest that’s because it’s not yet clear what happened with Russian efforts to cultivate him during the election.

Given how the Mueller Report leaves out key details of Kushner’s vulnerability to such cultivation, DOJ should be forced to release more of this 302.

29 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    Kushner is every bit as financially compromised as Individual-1 himself with the most spectacular example being the 666 property in NYC (sometimes the jokes write themselves about the Mark of the Beast from Revelations) but since he is married to Ivanka the Palace will try to save him (for now). I’m not sure how entwined Kushner Industries is with the Trump Organization with respect to the access to the government revenue stream (it seems to me that the T-Org is keeping the money to itself) but depending on that detail Jared may be worse off. That makes the back-channel and secret MBS discussions all the more concerning for America, since I doubt Jared can say “no” if he’s begging the Qataris to save his buildings.

    • ernesto1581 says:

      I think the following chain of events was discussed here a couple months ago, but it might bear repeating.

      A couple days before Brookfield Assets bought 666 5th Ave for $1.1 billion, in Aug ’18, the company completed its purchase of Westinghouse Electric from Toshiba for $4.6 billion: $1 billion equity, $3 billion long term debt (FT), a deal which had begun six months earlier.

      A week or two later, in Sept ’18, Westinghouse announced it will build several nuclear reactors in Ukraine. Alexander Shavlakov (Ergoatom) chimes in with plans to produce nuke components. More entertainments with regard to Ukraine using Westinghouse nuclear fuel technology follow.

      Meanwhile, concerning Qatari’s & Saudi’s:

      In Feb ’19, Qatari’s claim they had no idea their investments in Brookfield Assets had gone toward purchase of Kushner’s building.
      At the same time, also in Feb ’19, House Oversight releases report noting “…concerns of White House national security staff that the administration undertook ‘unethical and potentially illegal’ actions in 2017 to see through a sale of nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. The report points particularly to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and former National Security Council staff director Derek Harvey, among several other named former officials or associates of President Donald Trump, including his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.” (Arms Control Assoc.)

      Several months later, July ’19, Tom Barrack “…tries to buy nuclear reactor maker Westinghouse…using Saudi and Emirati money” (FT)

      How quaint those concerns of WH National Security staff seem today. And who’s gonna be your friend going today, Jared, Qatari’s or Saudi’s?

    • Joseph Andrews says:

      I cannot decide who is the ‘worst’ Trump enabler: Moscow Mitch (McConnell) or Slick Willie (Barr).

      I honestly fear for the future of what I would call democracy in these United States. God help us all.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Here in CA political circles “Slick Willie” refers to Willie Brown who managed to get himself elected Assembly Speaker when the GOP had the majority (the crossovers were summarily punished at the ballot box) followed by the creation of a “Speaker Emeritus” role with a swank office in the Capitol. Back in the day he also dated Kamala Harris and is now engaged in weekly establishment punditry at the SF Chronicle.

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          Also back in the day, the FBI tried its darnedest for years to catch Willie Brown in some –any– compromising illegal situations. FBI wasn’t successful but it netted several corrupt Legislators both Democratic and Republican. The operation was called something like “Shrimpscam.” According to Wikipedia, last year Trump pardoned one of the Republicans, Pat Nolan who was convicted in the scam. So there’s that.

  2. drouse says:

    Trade secrets? I looked over Bannon’s 302 and the b4 exemption appears after some response about Nadler followed by over a page of total redactions then going into stuff about Cohen. Something about Cambridge Analitica maybe?

    • drouse says:

      I apologize for my spelling. The only other time b4 exemption appears in the 302 is in the midst of a couple pages worth of total redaction.

    • emptywheel says:

      I was trying to find that out myself.
      I’m a bit concerned that it’s abt the overlap between Cambridge Analytica and DOD — that is, SCL.

      • drouse says:

        I find it a little alarming that it is possible that methods in the ratfucking industry can be protected as a trade secret.

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy.
    Let’s remember Kushner couldn’t pass the security clearance because of foreign influence and private business interests.
    A man with baggage, steamer trunks that need to be opened and exposed. Slowly it is happening – more to be revealed.

  4. JAFive says:

    “many of those also cite b3, which may indicate classified information”. Why wouldn’t those be marked b1 though? Seems to me that agencies love to apply b1 whenever possible given that it gets them maximal judicial deference.

    Could be wrong, but I would assume the invocation of 50 USC 3024(i)(1) is probably only relevant along b1(e.g., p. 341) and otherwise b3 is grand jury information.

  5. MattyG says:

    Good, back on that “Rusher thing”. Thanks EW and I hope Dems hammer away unceasingly on all DT Russia connections and all the implications of the unredacted Meuller report. BTW what’s up with the unredacted edition – Congressional intelligence committees still working on access?

    • MattyG says:

      Ahhhh. Looks like US District Judge Reggie Walton may be trying the liberate the redacted report from the clutches of Barr’s sweaty little hands. Hope this goes somewhere…

  6. Fran of the North says:

    “…suggest that Kushner may not have been entirely candid…”

    The same guy that had over 100 omissions over 4 different versions of his SF-86 might not have been candid???

    If that wasn’t a tip to the Mueller team to check his work, who knows what might have.

    • Raven Eye says:

      In the normal world, neither Trump nor Kushner could have have passed the adjudication process for even a Secret clearance, let alone a TS/SCI.

      • Fran of the North says:

        It is a flipping travesty. We may as well send credentials to all of our secure systems to as many of the GRU operatives as request them.

    • FL Resistor says:

      Every time Trump mentions Hunter Biden or Burisma someone from Biden campaign needs to point out questions about Jared Kushner and the mortgages on Kushner and Trump properties.

      • rosalind says:

        nope, that’s the exact false equivalence Trump/McConnell/Graham want you to use to cancel “both sides” out. and provides an excuse for Nancy Pelosi to further abdicate her sworn duties to defend the separation of powers and hold the bad actions of the Executive Branch – whatever familial ties they may have to Trump – to full account.

        • MattyG says:

          So just roll over? Dems should hammer away on this from the get go – do what Pelosi isn’t doing – and let DT try to counter with the false equivalence line.

  7. Rapier says:

    I’m still wondering how ̶ ̶L̶u̶c̶r̶e̶z̶i̶a̶ Ivanka knew to recruit Kushner to be her husband.

    • P J Evans says:

      Social connections, I’d guess. And Jared was probably looking for someone who could bail him out if need be.

      • Rapier says:

        I’m speaking to his extraordinary talent of being a cipher, over all the chaos. Completely unperturbed it seems, and remarkably unexamined. A man who it seems, is at perfect peace with himself and the world. As things fall apart.

    • subtropolis says:

      Rex Tillerson was not involved with the campaign, nor the transition. It would have been more than weird had he been called in to be interviewed.

      Tillerson did sneak into Congress to speak, behind closed doors, with one of the House committees, though. I cannot recall even the approximate date, though. This was well before the impeachment investigations. I don’t know whether anything has come out about it.

      • bmaz says:

        No, it would not have been “weird” in the least. No clue where you get that silly hot take.

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