Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 20th November, 2017
WASHINGTON, U.S. - A day after reports revealed an effort made by a top Russian official to set up a meeting between Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin during the election campaigning last year - another revelation has shocked authorities.
According to officials, Alexander Torshin tried to set up a meeting between Putin and the then Republican candidate Trump but more importantly, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner failed to reveal this communication to congressional investigators.
According to a report in The New York Times, Torshin, an alleged Russian mobster is a leading figure in Putin’s party, has been linked both to Russian intelligence services and organized crime.
Spanish anti-corruption officials consider Torshin a “godfather” of the Russia mob, though the banker denies the claims.
The report revealed that Torshin proposed the meeting in an email with the subject line “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite.”
The email, which has now been turned over to congressional investigators was reportedly sent by Rick Clay to a campaign aide Dearborn - inviting Trump to attend an event on the sidelines of a National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016.
Clay said in the mail that he hoped that Trump would attend the dinner, and he also included details about the overture from Torshin.
While the meeting ultimately did not take place due to Kushner sending “a message to top campaign officials rejecting it,” it was still a vital piece as part of the probe, which Kushner failed to reveal.
Reports have now stated that Kushner is under increasing scrutiny in the myriad investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have revealed that Kushner failed to hand over a document about the ‘Russian backdoor overture’ — nor did he provide investigators with a September 2016 email he was sent about WikiLeaks or communications the campaign forwarded to him from a Russian-born businessman.
Kushner now is a key person of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russian election meddling.
Kushner, who is responsible for a broad international portfolio in the administration, has long been a flashpoint in the controversy over Trump’s alleged ties to Russia due to his central role in the campaign.
The President’s son-in-law has spearheaded the campaign’s formidable data and analytics operation, under scrutiny as congressional investigators work to determine the extent to which Russia leveraged social media platforms in its interference campaign.
The 36-year-old has sought to paint himself as a hard-working campaign aide sometimes operating beyond his experience level.
In a closed-door interview with congressional investigators in July, Kushner described his role in the campaign as including finance and scheduling, as well as serving as a point of contact for foreign government officials.
He said, “My experience was in business, not politics. All of these were tasks that I had never performed on a campaign previously.”
He said that his actions, “should be viewed through the lens of a fast-paced campaign with thousands of meetings and interactions, some of which were impactful and memorable and many of which were not.”
In what came as the first major controversy involving Kushner, his participation in a June 2016 meeting came into focus as it involved Trump Jr. and a woman described as a Russian government lawyer who was offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
According to Kushner, he arrived late to the meeting and found the discussion to be about the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children, put in place by Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to 2012 sanctions over human rights violations.
Kushner said that he determined that the meeting was a waste of his time and left the meeting shortly after arriving — leaving Trump Jr., top campaign aide Paul Manafort and several other attendees behind.
Kushner has previously pushed back on reports that he tried to set up a back channel line of communications with Moscow.
He has stated that he suggested using the Russian Embassy’s secure line for a phone call between Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and Russian generals to discuss U.S. policy in Syria — because Trump Tower did not have that capability.
According to a July written statement, the Russian ambassador said no, and the matter was postponed until after the inauguration.
Kushner, who has been at the helm of the Trump campaign’s digital arm, brought in an outside data mining firm that is now under congressional scrutiny as a potential link to the Kremlin.
Alexander Nix, the head of Cambridge Analytica, contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about emails that Clinton deleted from the server she used while she was the Secretary of State.
The Trump campaign was revealed to have paid Cambridge Analytica millions during the 2016 presidential race, appeared to distance itself from the firm in the wake of the revelations.
On Thursday, in a letter to Kushner’s lawyer made public, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that the senior adviser “may have overlooked several documents” in its disclosures to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kushner, who has already appeared before the Senate and House Intelligence committees, has not testified with the Judiciary panel.
The letter stated, “We appreciate your voluntary cooperation with the committee’s investigation, but the production appears to have been incomplete.”
Kushner has reportedly declined to hand over a copy of the government form that he completed to acquire a security clearance, known as an SF-86.
The President’s son-in-law has amended the form at least twice after failing to disclose meetings with foreign officials, including multiple Russians.
According to reports, the senior adviser is still using a temporary security clearance almost 10 months after joining the administration.
The letter meanwhile also stated that Kushner also failed to turn over communications with a Belarusan-American businessman, Sergei Millian, who was the source of some of the more salacious details in an unconfirmed dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Investigators, who are keen to uncover more information about Flynn, requesting any records of communications with and about the former national security adviser.
Flynn, who was fired from the White House, is reportedly under investigation for an alleged quid pro quo with the Turkish government, in which he would have been paid millions of dollars in exchange for the extradition of a Muslim cleric living in the U.S.
According to the letter, Senate investigators uncovered all of these documents because other witnesses in the probe revealed them.
In a statement, Kushner’s attorney said that the president’s son-in-law has been “responsive” to committee requests and will continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.
He has denied colluding with the Russian government during the 2016 election and in his July testimony, Kushner said, “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.”
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