Bad news has been piling up on Jared Kushner’s White House desk for a while. But Michael Flynn’s Friday guilty plea and his agreement to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s explosive investigation into Russian meddling could prove to be the most worrisome development yet.
And the shoe may fall faster than expected for the presidential son-in-law, with reports pointing to Kushner as the one who sent Flynn to talk to the Russian ambassador about various matters that Flynn has now admitted lying to FBI agents about.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, quickly demanded the presidential son-in-law appear before the committee to provide answers.
Now that he has forced Flynn to cooperate, Mueller may now move on to aim at the biggest fish of all: President Trump himself, and his right right-hand man, Kushner. He will do so with the help of Flynn, who held senior positions in the campaign, the transition team and in the early days of the administration.
Here are a few reasons that Kushner should be very concerned with the latest developments:
Flynn Knows A Lot
Michael Flynn was far more connected to Trump’s inner circle than ex-campaign boss Paul Manafort or anyone else indicted so far in the Russian investigation. During the campaign, Flynn had direct access to Trump’s inner circle, which included Kushner and political supremo Steve Bannon. And after taking office, Flynn, as national security adviser, had an open door to the Oval Office. All this means that if there was any wrongdoing in the campaign and if there were any inappropriate contacts with the Russians, Flynn likely knew about them. And now, so will Mueller, at least theoretically.
Lying About Meetings With Russians Is A Big Deal
Flynn’s indictment demonstrates the deep legal implications of providing false information regarding meetings with foreign officials. Kushner, while not yet accused of lying to the FBI, did neglect to mention talks he himself held with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and his participation in a meeting with a Russian attorney offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Kushner Set Up Flynn’s Improper Outreach On Israel
One of the instances in which Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI had to do with his request from Kislyak to delay an upcoming vote in the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israel’s settlement policy. Flynn’s role in this effort was relatively minor.
Jared Kushner led the drive to reach out to foreign governments to derail the vote, despite the fact that Trump had yet to take office. If Mueller has gone deep enough to find out about Flynn’s work on this issue, he likely knows a lot more about Kushner’s role. According to Bloomberg, two former officials on the Trump transition team say it was Kushner who ordered Flynn to reach out to foreign officials regarding the U.N. vote.
While there is no claim of illegal action by Kushner yet, his involvement in orchestrating Flynn’s conversations with foreign representatives will certainly raise big questions. These include the fact that it is improper and possibly illegal to conduct foreign policy actions before taking office, and the question of whether Flynn or Kushner had promised Russia anything in return for blocking the U.N. vote.
Investigators may also ask whether Kushner told Flynn to keep quiet about the secret push. That would put Kushner squarely in Mueller’s crosshairs.
Flynn Might Know Plenty About Kushner’s Russian Business Deals
The indictment presented Friday makes clear that Flynn, during the presidential transition, played a key role in maintaining relations with the Russians. As such, he may hold the key to one of the questions surrounding Kushner’s relationship with Russia: Was the presidential son-in-law trying to advance Trump’s geopolitical agenda, or was he also out to advance his own business interests?
Last December, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, who is the head of a large Russian state-owned bank and considered close to Putin. The White House explained that the meeting was a regular diplomatic encounter of the soon-to-be administration team. But the Russians maintained it was a business meeting between a representative of an important bank and a real estate businessman.
Whether coincidentally or not, Kushner was at the time trying to find investors for a troubled Fifth Avenue skyscraper that has been an albatross for his family’s real-estate empire. Flynn may know whether Kushner was mixing business and diplomacy — and if that was a motive for colluding with the Russians.
Kushner Was Close To Flynn — Very Close
During the presidential transition period, Trump discussed options for Flynn’s future role in his administration. The president-elect, according to reports, basically offered Flynn any national security post he’d like. Chris Christie, who headed the team at the time, warned Trump against appointing Flynn to the sensitive position of national security adviser, since Flynn had already been fired by Barack Obama and was viewed as a loose cannon on Russia and other issues. When Kushner led the move to push Christie out, he opened the door to giving Flynn the national security adviser position.
Kushner Is The Next Guy On The Trump Org Chart
Mueller’s investigation seems to be moving from bottom to top, first going after weak links such as campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopolous and then Manafort before taking a step higher to confront Flynn with the choice between cooperating or facing serious charges. Next in line, in terms of Trump hierarchy, could be Kushner.
He may either be Mueller’s final stop in the investigation — or the most crucial step on his way to the biggest prize waiting at the end of the hall in the White House.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.