Kushner explanations for meeting with Russian banker don’t hold up under scrutiny: WaPo
The bombshell reporting on the Donald Trump organization and potential Russian collusion was advanced yet again with a powerful new report highlighting contradicting reasons for secret meetings.
A team of four Washington Post reporters concluded the explanations for one of Jared Kushner’s secret meetings don’t hold water.
“The bank maintained this week that the session was held as part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business. The White House says the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration,” the Post explained. “The contradiction is deepening confusion over Kushner’s interactions with the Russians as the president’s son-in-law emerges as a key figure in the FBI’s investigation into potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump team.”
The discrepancies are over a secret meeting in December, between Jared Kushner and Vnesheconombank Bank CEO Sergey Gorkov, who had a background in the Kremlin’s FSB spying operation is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Gorkov could draw new attention to the clashing storylines Friday when he is scheduled to deliver public remarks to an economic conference in St. Petersburg,” The Post reported. “Gorkov, cornered Wednesday by a CNN reporter on the sidelines of the conference, responded ‘no comments’ three times when asked about the Kushner meeting.”
Gorkov then flew to Japan and met with Putin. The Post revealed that flight data would place the meeting with Kushner on Dec. 13 or 14, which was about two weeks following Kushner’s “encounter” with Kislyak.
The flight data explained that a 19-seat twin-engine jet owned by a company linked to Gorkov’s company flew from Moscow to the United States on Dec. 13. It then left from Newark, New Jersey at 5:01 p.m. on Dec. 14 and headed to Japan, where putin was scheduled to be on Dec. 15 and 16. According to media reports, Gorkov and Putin met there. The Post said that the flight mirrored publicly known travel seen in recent months, “including his trip to St. Petersburg this week.”
“Mr. Kushner was acting in his capacity as a transition official and had many similar discussions with foreign representatives after the election,” White House spokesperson Hope Hicks told said in a statement. “For example, he also started conversations with leaders from Saudi Arabia that led to the President’s recent successful international trip.”
Gorkov’s bank stands by their statement issued in March, saying they meet frequently with leaders of financial institutions as well as Kushner company heads.
Putin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed the bank has nothing to do with the Kremlin. However, the bank is considered Russia’s state economic development bank and makes investments that it thinks will boost the Russian economy. Experts told The Post that the bank functions as an arm of the Kremlin and funded the 2014 Sochi Olympics. When Gorkov worked as a deputy head of Sberbank it was also the 2013 Miss Universe Pagent in Moscow, which Trump produced as the pageant’s owner.
“Basically, VEB operates like Putin’s slush fund,” said Russia expert Anders Aslund from the Atlantic Center. “It carries out major Kremlin operations that Putin does not want to do through the state budget.”
Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, who also serves as an outside advisor to the Trump administration, is also on the advisory board for the bank’s advisory board.
Many who study Russia note that Gorkov could be an “unlikely diplomatic link” between Putin and Trump. He’s not only a graduate of Russian FSB spy academy he’s also a recipient of Putin’s “service to the Fatherland” medal.
“I can think of many back channels that one might cultivate to have close, discreet, indirect communications with Putin. VEB’s Gorkov would not make my list,” said former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.
VEB has a history of participating in Russian espionage and served as a cover for spying efforts last year in New York. Court documents revealed Evgeny Buryakov pretended to be the bank’s second-in-command for three years while he was secretly meeting with a Russian intelligence officer gathering information on the U.S. economic system.
Buryakov’s staff was recorded talking about former Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page as a possible recruit.
At the time, the Russian Foreign Ministry called the court case nonsense and Buryakov’s legal fees were paid by his bank. He was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in prison. After being let off on good behavior he was deported.
When Gorkov met with Kushner the bank was making major changes and financial institutions were still suffering after sanctions were issued for Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Renewed sanctions after the involvement in the 2016 election would not prevent Kushner from being the recipient of investments by VEB. It merely prevents U.S. money from going to VEB.
Experts agree Gorkov would likely have discussed sanctions with Kushner when they spoke.
The revelations come amid news that three lawmakers question Kushner’s chief-of-staff on concerns over whether he exploited his position as a White House adviser to score investments through a federal immigration program. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said this week that Kushner’s conversations concern him enough that he believes Kushner should have his security clearance revoked until an investigation is done.