President Donald Trump’ son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, omitted meetings with top Russian officials from his security clearance form, it has been reported.
US leaders seeking top security clearance are required to complete a lengthy questionnaire on all of their meetings with representatives of foreign governments. But, in the midst of a probe into the Trump team’s possible ties to Russia, Mr Kushner reportedly failed to disclose his meetings with two powerful Russian officials.
According to the New York Times, Kushner omitted one meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, and another with Sergey N. Gorkov, the head of a Russian state-owned bank.
Mr Gorkov is a graduate of Russia's internal security agency, and his bank, Vnesheconombank, has been accused of playing host to a Russian spy ring. When Mr Kushner and Mr Gorkov met, Vnesheconombank was under US sanctions for Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Mr Gorkov said in a statement that he met with Mr Kushner in his capacity as as the then-chief executive of Kushner Companies, and did not discuss sanctions. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks characterised the meetings as routine diplomatic encounters.
“It really wasn’t much of a conversation,” she told the Times.
Mr Kushner’s lawyer similarly downplayed the meetings, claiming Mr Kushner had omitted them from the questionnaire on accident. She said that, after learning of the error, Mr Kushner volunteered to provide the FBI with more information about the contacts. He has yet to do so.
The Senate Intelligence Committee announced 27 March that they would question Mr Kushner on the meetings as part of their investigation into alleged Trump-Russia ties. Omissions of this nature can result in a loss of security clearance, or even prosecution, though such actions are rare.
JUST IN from @mkraju: Senate Intelligence Committee chair says Jared Kushner's testimony will be a private interview and "likely" under oath— Elizabeth Landers (@ElizLanders) March 28, 2017
Two of Mr Trump’s officials have already faced repercussions for failing to disclose communications with Russia. Mike Flynn, Mr Trump’s first national security advisor, stepped down after it was revealed that he misled the vice president regarding his conversations with Mr Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any Russia investigations after he failed to disclose his meetings with the ambassador.
Mr Kushner — who advises the president on everything from Mid East policy to government organisation — will hold an interim security clearance until he supplies the FBI with additional information.