Speed Reads

Trump-Russia

White House, Russian bank disagree on why Jared Kushner met with bank chief Sergey Gorkov

In March, the White House acknowleged that Jared Kushner had secretly met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB), in December. Kushner, the only known White House official to be a focus of the FBI's investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, has been under scrutiny for back-channel communications with Moscow he suggested setting up in December with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

The White House maintains that the Kushner-Gorkov meeting was just one of many diplomatic meetings President Trump's son-in-law held during the transition, while VEB reiterated to The Washington Post this week that Gorkov met with Kushner as head of his family real estate business, as part of the bank's new investment strategy. VEB has been subject to U.S. sanctions since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

"Either account of the meeting could bring complications for a White House undergoing intensifying scrutiny from a special counsel and multiple congressional committees," The Washington Post notes: Either Kushner was representing Trump at a meeting with a Kremlin-linked bank pushing for lifting sanctions as the president, Barack Obama, was readying new sanctions over Russia's election interference, or Gorkov — a graduate of the FSB intelligence service academy — was meeting with a real estate executive, close to a president-elect, who was scouring for financing for his company's troubled $1.8 billion purchase of a Manhattan office building. Then the Post has this detail:

Flight data reviewed by The Washington Post suggests that the meeting may have taken place on Dec. 13 or 14, about two weeks after Kushner's encounter with Kislyak. A 19-seat twin-engine jet owned by a company linked to VEB flew from Moscow to the United States on Dec. 13 and departed from the Newark airport, outside New York City, at 5:01 p.m. Dec. 14, according to positional flight information provided by FlightAware. ... After leaving Newark on Dec. 14, the jet headed to Japan, where [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was visiting on Dec. 15 and 16. The news media had reported that Gorkov would join the Russian president there. [The Washington Post]

"Basically, VEB operates like Putin's slush fund," said Anders Aslund, a Russia expert at the Atlantic Center. VEB was also implicated in a U.S. espionage case with lateral ties to former Trump adviser Carter Page. The sanctions against VEB would not have barred Kushner from meeting Gorkov or Gorkov from investing in a U.S. real estate project. You can read more at The Washington Post.