WASHINGTON – A Russian bank under Western economic sanctions has disclosed that its executives had met Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, during the 2016 election campaign.
A U.S. Senate committee investigating suspected Russian interference in the election wants to interview Trump associates, including Kushner, 36, who is married to Trump’s first daughter Ivanka Trump and has agreed to testify.
Kushner previously acknowledged meeting the Russian ambassador to Washington last December and only on Monday did it emerge that executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank road show last year.
The bank facing sanctions over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine said Monday in an emailed statement that as part of its preparing a new strategy, its executives met representatives of financial institutes in Europe, Asia and America.
It said road show 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.” VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates.
Allegations by U.S. 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 toward 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 Feb. 13 after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.
U.S. 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.
Gorkov was appointed head of VEB in early 2016 by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He graduated from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia’s internal security agency. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, according to the bank’s website.
According to two congressional staffers, some Senate investigators want to question Kushner and Flynn about whether they discussed with Gorkov or other Russian officials or financial executives the possibility of investing in 666 Fifth Avenue in New York or other Kushner Co or Trump properties if the new administration lifted the sanctions.
VEB, aside from being under sanctions, has been grappling with bad debt after financing politically expedient projects such as construction for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
It received 150 billion rubles (US$2.6 billion) in support from the Russian budget in 2016, when its senior management was sacked and replaced by a team of executives from Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank.
In an article posted on Dec. 18, Forbes estimated that Jared Kushner, his brother Josh and his parents, Charles and Seryl, have a fortune of at least US$1.8 billion, more than half of which Forbes estimates is held in real estate.
On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that Kushner is willing to testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by U.S. 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.