FBI Russia investigation looking at Kushner role
The FBI’s criminal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election is increasingly touching on the multiple roles of senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team.
Points of focus that pertain to Kushner include: the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation; his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn; and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians, according to US officials briefed on the probe.
There is no indication Kushner is currently a target of the probe and there are no allegations he committed any wrongdoing.
It’s not clear if the FBI plans to talk to Kushner, but investigators believe he would be able to help provide information to assist the probe.
A source close to Kushner said Kushner was unaware of the FBI’s interest in him and hasn’t been contacted. NBC News and the Washington Post reported Thursday on the FBI’s interest in Kushner. Kushner’s attorney said her client is willing to talk to the FBI if asked.
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” said Jamie Gorelick, his attorney.
The FBI has collected data on computer bots, programs that perform repetitive functions like searches, allegedly linked to Russia that helped target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton and positive information on Donald Trump through Facebook and other social media, the officials say.
Federal investigators have been taking a closer look at the Trump campaign’s data analytics operation, which was supervised by Kushner, officials say, and are examining whether Russian operatives used people associated with the campaign — wittingly or unwittingly — to try to help Russia’s own data targeting.
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, worked with and helped oversee the campaign’s data operation contractors based in San Antonio, Texas.
Kushner has described how, beginning last June, he began testing the use of data targeting to sell Trump merchandise. Eventually, according to a November Forbes magazine profile, the data operation helped the Trump campaign figure out where the candidate’s message was resonating in states like Michigan and Wisconsin, places where conventional political wisdom suggested they would be wasting time and money.
“I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner told Forbes.
A source connected to the data analytics group said the team has not been contacted about any Russia related probe.
“We have not been contacted by anyone and don’t know anything formally about an investigation,” the source said.
The FBI focus on Flynn also touches on Kushner because he led the presidential transition’s foreign policy efforts.
Kushner’s impact grew during the transition, which one source says he effectively ran — along with another campaign aide Rick Dearborn — once New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was removed.
This source says both Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump wanted Flynn in as national security adviser. A source close to Kushner denied that he pushed for Flynn.
Kushner has acknowledged meeting during the transition with Russia’s ambassador and separately with the head of a Russian bank. According to a source familiar with what transpired, neither meeting discussed sanctions but instead focused on establishing a backchannel to Russia’s president. Those meetings are of interest to the FBI.
The White House referred calls to Kushner’s attorney.
This story has been updated.