The ever-evolving happenings between Trump associates and Russia have most recently focused on Senior Advisor Jared Kushner. Several consecutive days of reports first indicated that Trump’s son-in-law was “under scrutiny” by the FBI. The most damning account alleged that Kushner wanted to establish a secret line of communication with the Kremlin. In addition, Kushner (while applying for top-secret security clearance) failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador and a Russian banker. The New York Times now says that investigators are focusing heavily on why Kushner met with the banker.
There’s plenty of reason for the intrigue, for the background of the banker — Sergey Gorkov — sets off a series of U.S. intelligence alarms. As NBC News reports, he is a spy school graduate and Putin ally who’s “often tasked with sensitive financial operations” by the Russian president. Putin named Gorkov to lead VneshEconomBank (VEB), which is a state-owned entity that remains under U.S. sanctions. What investigators can’t figure out (or haven’t revealed yet) is whether the meeting with Gorkov, who is closely tied to Putin but generally hasn’t been involved in diplomacy, had to do with the back channel allegations …. or something else. Via the NY Times:
Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Mr. Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Mr. Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Mr. Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition, according to current and former officials familiar with the investigations.
Naturally, investigators want to know if the meeting’s happenings — despite it happening during the transition — could prove collusion with Russia on election interference. Or perhaps sanctions (which Michael Flynn reportedly discussed with the Russian ambassador) arose in conversation. Yet Gorkov has insisted that the meeting only revolved around Kushner’s then-role as the head of his family’s real estate empire.
However, the NY Times notes that Russian intelligence has used VEB “to plant spies” (one of which pleaded guilty in March 2016) within the United States. While Gorkov is not considered by U.S. intelligence to be actively involved in Russian intelligence, Putin is said to have made him the head of VEB because of “his past ties to the security services in Moscow.”
Soon, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s upcoming questioning of Kushner will undoubtedly bring all of these subjects to the forefront. And if the White House is really setting up a “war room” to fight mounting Russia-related allegations, well, they’re gonna have their hands full.