Saturday 21 April 2018

Democrats' assault switches from hapless Donald Jr to son-in-law Kushner

Power couple: Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump Photo: Reuters
Power couple: Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump Photo: Reuters

Nick Allen

Last week, Jared Kushner and wife Ivanka Trump were hobnobbing with technology titans and billionaires at an annual conference for the global elite in Sun Valley, Idaho.

For America's foremost power couple, it was a welcome respite from Washington, where a full-scale Democratic assault has reached a crescendo.

Mr Kushner, in particular, has become the focus of a concerted, multi-pronged attempt to claim a senior White House scalp. He is the only serving member of the Trump administration who was present at a meeting between Donald Trump Jr, the president's son, Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, and Rimat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intelligence officer, at Trump Tower in New York on June 9, 2016.

An email chain revealed the meeting was brokered by Rob Goldstone, a British publicist, who said his client had damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Mr Trump's campaign. Mr Trump Jr was eager to hear the information. Mr Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended.

While critics initially focused on Mr Trump Jr, who does not hold a position at the White House, it is Mr Kushner who could pay a higher price.

Crucially, he twice failed to disclose the meeting on application forms for security clearance. Intentionally concealing or falsifying information on the forms, known as SF-86s, is a criminal offence, carrying up to five years in jail.

While Mr Kushner's lawyers have indicated it was an innocent omission, Democrats scent blood.

One senior Democrat said: "He watched his father-in-law say no one in the campaign talked to the Russian government. He knew that was false."

A White House spokesman said the attacks were an example of "Democrats playing political games".

Elijah Cummings, the leading Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, wrote to Mr Kushner demanding to see his SF-86 application.

Democrats also tried to secure an amendment in Congress preventing the government from allowing security clearance for White House employees under investigation, which was aimed at Mr Kushner, who has been identified as a "person of interest" in a Department of Justice investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Mr Kushner has, in response, urged the White House communications team to be more aggressive. When asked about the situation, a White House official appeared to carry out Mr Kushner's wishes, arguing that the media should instead investigate links between Democrats and Ukraine during the election.

Mr Kushner first filed his SF-86 on January 18 but the section for foreign contacts was left blank.

In May, an updated form was filed but the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya and Mr Akhmetshin was not listed.

On June 21, another form, including the key meeting, was sent.

Lawyers indicated that it was not disclosed previously because someone prematurely pressed send on the application form.

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News