Jared Kushner to be questioned over ties to Russia

The White House has confirmed that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also one his most senior advisers, will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The committee is investigating alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and also looking into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that Kushner is willing to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican.

“Throughout the campaign and the transition, Jared served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials … and so, given this role, he volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr’s committee,” Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing.

Kushner, 36, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, has acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador to Washington last December. 

And on Monday, a Russian bank under Western economic sanctions over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine disclosed that its executives had met Kushner during the 2016 election campaign.

The Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) said in a statement that as part of its preparing a new strategy, its executives met representatives of financial institutes in Europe, Asia and America.

It said meetings took place “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies,” the Kushner family’s real-estate firm.

VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates. There was no immediate comment from Kushner.

Simply meeting with representatives of a US-sanctioned entity is not a violation of sanctions or against the law.

OPINION: Why is Russia so happy with Trump?

Allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russian actors were behind hacking of senior Democratic Party operatives and spreading disinformation linger over Trump’s young presidency.

Democrats charge the Russians wanted to tilt the election towards the Republican, a claim dismissed by Trump. Russia denies the allegations.

But there has been no doubt that the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, developed contacts among the Trump team.

Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign on February 13 after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

US officials said that after meeting with Russian Kislyak at Trump Tower last December, a meeting also attended by Flynn, Kushner met later in December with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of Vnesheconombank.

White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings, saying nothing of consequence was discussed.

Separately, the House Intelligence Committee is looking into possible Russian interference.

The integrity of that investigation has been put in doubt after it was revealed that its Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, visited the White House the night before he announced on Wednesday that he had information that indicated some Trump associates may have been subjected to some level of intelligence activity before Trump took office on January 20.

John Neffinger, the communications director of the Democratic National Committee, stressed the importance of thoroughly probing the mounting allegations of collusion between Trump’s team and Russia.

“We have no proof yet,” he told Al Jazeera. “We do know that the Russians were talking to Trump’s campaign team on a regular basis during the campaign. We don’t know what they were talking about.

“Is it possible they were talking about the weather? It is. But if they happened to be talking about the thing that they had in common, which was trying to have Donald Trump elected for president, then it is also possible that something very, very bad took place.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies