As attention focuses on Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer to obtain negative information about Hillary Clinton, it’s easy to overlook how damaging and embarrassing the episode is for Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers.
Kushner attended the June 2016 meeting in New York, along with Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Kushner’s lawyers recently discovered he failed to disclose it on a form he submitted to obtain a security clearance, according to The New York Times. Last Saturday, the Times broke the story on the meeting.
Trump Jr. told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday night that Kushner attended the meeting with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, for just a few minutes before he left.
Kushner’s lawyers reportedly have amended his security clearance form to disclose the meeting. But that wasn’t the only such omission by Kushner.
He maintains a security clearance even though he failed to mention multiple meetings with Russian officials on the form he submitted before the Trump administration took office. Those meetings were with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., and the head of a Russian-owned bank.
Knowingly omitting such information is a crime; Kushner’s lawyer has said the omissions were just an error.
Also raising questions about Kushner’s security clearance is a McClatchy report detailing investigations in Congress and by the Justice Department into whether the Trump campaign’s digital team, overseen by Kushner, directed Russian operatives to key states. McClatchy reported DOJ investigators are skeptical that Russians spreading fake news would have known the areas to target on their own.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday called on Kushner to resign, saying he knowingly allowed Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to falsely say that no one in their campaign had contacts with Russian officials.
“You don’t think the Republicans would be calling for the resignation of an Obama official who allowed the president and vice president to openly lie about a major national security issue?” Murphy told reporters on Capitol Hill. “He watched his father-in-law on TV say no one in [Trump’s] campaign talked to the Russian government.”
Kushner “knew that was false,” Murphy said. “Either he didn’t alert the president and vice president, or there is a much bigger problem, and the president and vice president knew they were lying. There is a crisis of trust that the White House has to deal with.”
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said Kushner should “probably” lose his security clearance.
“That’s the decision the president gets to make,” he said, in response to a question about whether Kushner should step down. “Let me put it this way: If he were not related by marriage to the president, I think he’d already be gone.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) also called on Kushner to resign on Monday.
The president’s legal team is reportedly frustrated by the way Kushner has advised Trump on the probes into alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign while not being entirely forthcoming about his own activities that have drawn scrutiny. The New York Times reported Trump’s legal team sees Kushner as an obstacle more concerned with his own self-interest than that of the president.
Like his father-in-law, Kushner had no direct experience with a presidential campaign prior to the 2016 race. He was one of Trump’s most trusted advisers on the campaign trail and has continued to serve in that capacity in the White House. But Kushner allies now believe his lack of political experience may be hurting him.
“Everything is being treated as bigger than it is, but he’s in the big leagues now,” a Republican Kushner ally told Axios. “He’s trying to bravado his way through his lack of experience.”
The president has given Kushner an expansive White House portfolio that includes working on peace negotiations in the Middle East and overhauling government bureaucracy.
CORRECTION: This article has been amended to reflect that Schatz’s remark about “the decision the president gets to make” came in response to a question about whether Kushner should step down, and was not in reference to whether he should retain his security clearance.