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Jared Kushner’s meeting with Russian state bank still shrouded in mystery despite Mueller investigation

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President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with the Russian state bank, the Vnesheconombank, and the special counsel’s report still didn’t uncover what went on.

Kushner’s protege Avi Berkowitz met with former Ambassador Sergey Kislyak Dec. 12, 2016, according to Robert Mueller’s final report.

“The meeting lasted only a few minutes, during which Kislyak indicated that he wanted Kushner to meet someone who had a direct line to Putin: Sergey Gorkov, the head of the Russian-government-owned bank Vnesheconombank (VEB),” the report says on page 161. “Kushner agreed to meet with Gorkov. 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.”

Mueller noted that the VEB was then and continues to be subject to Treasury Department sanctions imposed on Russia in wake of the annexation of Crimea.

“Kushner did not, however, recall any discussion during his meeting with Gorkov about the sanctions against VEB or sanctions more generally. Kushner stated in an interview that he did not engage in any preparation for the meeting and that no one in the Transition Team even did a Google search for Gorkov’s name.”

Gorkov gave Kushner two gifts, a painting and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner’s family originated. But the similarities between what Kushner and Gorkov testified about ends there. According to the Mueller report, the two men don’t agree on whether it was a “diplomatic or business” meeting.

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“Kushner told the Office that the meeting was diplomatic, with Gorkov expressing disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for improved relations with the incoming Administration,” the report says. “According to Kushner, although Gorkov told Kushner a little bit about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy, the two did not discuss Kushner’s companies or private business dealings of any kind.”

Mueller noted that during the time of the meeting, Kushner Companies had a debt due on 666 Fifth Avenue and there was public reporting that the Kushners were searching for a lender to borrow from and that any foreign investors would be a conflict of interest. Qatar admits it ‘unwittingly’ bailed out the Kushners.

“In contrast, in a 2017 public statement, VEB suggested Gorkov met with Kushner in Kushner’ s capacity as CEO of Kushner Companies for the purpose of discussing business, rather than as part of a diplomatic effort. In particular, VEB characterized Gorkov’s meeting with Kushner as part of a series of ‘roadshow meetings’ with ‘representatives of major US banks and business circles,’ which included ‘negotiations’ and discussion of the ‘most promising business lines and sectors,'” the report continued.

Robert Foresman, the investment bank executive, told Mueller he met with Gorkov and the VEB deputy chair Nikolay Tsekhomsky in Moscow prior to the Kushner meeting.

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“According to Foresman, Gorkov and Tsekhomsky told him that they were traveling to New York to discuss post-election issues with U.S. financial institutions, that their trip was sanctioned by Putin, and that they would be reporting back to Putin upon their return,” the report went on.

According to Mueller, however, his investigation “didn’t resolve the apparent conflict in the accounts of Kushner and Gorkov or determine whether the meeting was diplomatic in nature (as Kushner stated).”

It’s still unknown what was actually discussed between Kushner and the Russian bankers. But a few days following the meeting, Gorkov’s assistant texted Kushner’s assistant (Berkowitz) saying, “Hi, please inform your side that the information about the meeting had a very positive response!”

Gorkov’s assistant tried to set up another meeting with Kushner through Berkowitz, who didn’t respond to the multiple text messages due to the press coverage about the Russia investigation. He never told Kushner about the additional meeting requests.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Hope Hicks told Congress that Trump has cut her out of his life — he virtually never calls her anymore

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Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks was broadly considered to be one of President Donald Trump's favorite staffers.

But when she left the administration in 2018, the president virtually cut off ties to her, and has only spoken with her five times since then, according to the transcript of the closed-door hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday:

In her interview, Hope Hicks says she has only spoken to Trump between five and ten times since she left the White House in February 2018. (He used to call that much in a day.) They last spoke in April, when they had dinner. Our story from yesterday:https://t.co/3gzVY21c3z pic.twitter.com/VMZqhnbgib

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Elections regulator warns foreign intrusion into US campaigns is already happening

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In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Federal Elections Commission is warning that there is already foreign intrusion in the U.S. campaigns.

FEC chair Ellen L. Weintraub was forced to issue a statement after President Donald Trump said that he wasn't sure what he would do if a foreign government approached him with "dirt" on his political opponent. He said that he "might" tell the FBI but would likely hear what they had to say. He said that it wasn't illegal, but Weintraub issued a statement reiterating that it is illegal.

"I am particularly concerned about the risk of illicit funds and foreign support influencing our political system. Foreign dark money represents a significant vulnerability for American democracy. We do not know the extent to which our political campaigns receive foreign dark money, but we do know that the political money can be weaponized by well-funded hostile powers," the letter warned.

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Trump’s anti-abortion rule attacking Planned Parenthood can go into effect in 49 states: appeals court

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According to the Associated Press, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump's domestic "gag rule" can take effect while litigation proceeds, potentially making it far harder for low-income women to access abortion care.

District judges in California, Oregon, and Washington previously blocked the rule from taking effect. But a three-judge panel in San Francisco today said that the rule was "reasonable" as an interpretation of federal law, and lifted the injunction preventing it from being enforced. The rule can now take effect in every state except Maryland, where another federal judge's order has still enjoined the policy.

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