Jared Kushner met with the head of a Russian bank described as Vladimir Putin’s “private slush fund” before his father-in-law was inaugurated and then failed to report the meeting when requesting top-secret clearance for his White House job.
The meeting, which was arranged during the presidential transition by Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak, came to light last month, after the FBI confirmed that members of the Trump campaign were under investigation for alleged ties to the Kremlin
The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to question Kushner, an unpaid aide to President Donald Trump, about his meetings with Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank and a graduate of Russia’s “spy school” — the Academy of the Federal Security Service.
The state-run bank known as VEB was set up as traditional development bank, along the lines of the World Bank, but it has since morphed into an off-the-books budget for the government,” Karen Vartapetov, a sovereign credit analyst at Standard & Poor’s, told Foreign Policy.
The bank has turned up at nearly all of the Kremlin’s foreign policy priorities — from Chechnya, Ukraine and the United States.
VEB hosted a spy ring at its New York City offices, where two agents posing as bankers recruited potential assets, gathered economic intelligence and helped an unidentified “Russian state-owned news organization,” according to federal investigators.
One of those operatives, Evgeny Buryakov, was deported Wednesday, after serving two years for his role in the spy ring, which was operated by Moscow’s foreign intelligence arm, the SVR.
One of the other two agents, Victor Podobnyy, attempted to recruit Carter Page, who later became a Trump campaign adviser and has fallen under investigation for his ties to Russia, during a 2013 operation.
The White House described the December meeting between Kushner and Gorkov as a routine diplomatic contact, while VEB said it was just one in a series of meetings with U.S. banks and other business establishments.
VEB was placed on the U.S. sanctions list after Putin annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine politics with the help of the development bank, which injected $500 million into Ukrainian banks after the 2008 financial crisis.
The bank also promised to invest in other infrastructure and industrial projects in an effort to draw Ukraine closer to Moscow, as the Kremlin created and supported a pro-Russian insurgency in the former Soviet Republic.
“VEB does not do any ordinary banking business,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “Therefore, it is so remarkable that Jared Kushner met with the head of VEB.”