TrumpWatch, Day 147: Special Counsel Investigating Kushner’s Finances

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Son-in-law Jared Kushner among Trump associates under investigation for financial dealings in Trump-Russia inquiry


Developments on Day 147 of the Trump Adminstration:

See also Podcasts: The Pressure Grows on Trump, Kushner, & Co.

Mueller Looking at Financial Affair of Trump’s Son-in-Law Kushner

Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the finances and business dealings of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor, as part of the expanding investigation into links between Trump’s associates and Russian officials.

“US officials familiar with the matter” said the FBI and federal prosecutors are also examining the financial affairs of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page.

The latest disclosure by US officials came a day after confirmation that Mueller is investigating Trump. That inquiry has the narrower focus of Trump’s requests to FBI Director James Comey and then Director of National Security Dan Coats and National Security Agency head Mike Rogers to halt the investigation of Flynn over his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. Trump also asked the three men — Comey on three occassions and Coats and Rogers in late March — to publicly declare that he was not a subject of the inquiry.

Officials first revealed in late May that Kushner was a “target” of the investigation because of his meetings in December with Kislyak and then with Sergey Gorkov, an ally of Vlaidmir Putin who is head of the State-owned development bank Vnesheconombank.

In the discussion with Kislyak, Kushner suggested establishment of communications between Trump officials and the Kremlin via the Russian Embassy.

See TrumpWatch, Day 127: Kushner Discussed Secret Link to Russia

Speculation circulated that Kushner’s meeting with Gorkov was connected with loans for his property interests, notably financing for a troubled $1.8 billion purchase of an office building on Fifth Avenue in New York; however, it was not clear at the time that the FBI was investigating Kushner’s business dealings.

The White House maintained that Kushner only had a pre-inauguration diplomatic encounter, unrelated to business matters, with Gorkov. But Vnesheconombank said the session was held for business concerning Kushner’s role as head of his family’s real estate company.

Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick said on Thursday:

We do not know what this report refers to. It would be standard practice for the Special Counsel to examine financial records to look for anything related to ­Russia. Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about ­Russia-related matters. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.

In a further sign of the expanding inquiry, aides and volunteers of the Trump transition have been instructed to save any records related to “potential attempts by Russia interests to influence the 2016 election”.

Campaign officials staff were told to preserve all documents related to the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Trump campaign advisors and officials, including Manafort, Page, Flynn, Rick Gates, and Roger Stone.

Pence Hires Outside Lawyer for Trump-Russia Inquiry

Vice President Mike Pence has hired outside legal counsel for the Trump-Russia investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional committees.

Pence has retained Richard Cullen, who previously served as a US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Last month Trump hired his own private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, for the inquiry.

Pence has not been named as a target in the investigation. However, he could be drawn into it because of the controversy around former National Security Advisor Flynn and his contacts with Kislyak. Flynn misled Pence about those contacts, leading the Vice President to repeat false claims in public.

Mueller Team Includes Investigators of Russian Organized Crime

Special Counsel Mueller’s team has brought in lawyers with expertise on Russian organized crime.

A recent addition is Lisa Page, a Justice Department trial attorney with specialist investigations of Russian and former Soviet organised crime, including its reputed godfather, Semion Mogilevich.

Mogilevich associates reportedly have owned condos in Trump Tower in New York. The father of Trump’s business partner in the Trump Soho hotel, Felix Sater, was a Mogilevich lieutenant.

Also on the Mueller team are Andrew Weissmann, an organised crime expert who has examined New York’s mafia families and their infiltration of Wall Street and who led the investigation of Enron, the giant energy corporation; Michael Dreeben, a former Deputy Solicitor General who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court; and three members of Mueller’s law firm.


Trump to Roll Back Obama Engagement with Cuba

Donald Trump will roll back Barack Obama’s engagement with Cuba, banning tourist travel to the island, emphasizing the 56-year-old trade embargo, and instituting a broad prohibition on financial transactions with companies linked to the Cuban military.

Trump will announce the initiative at a Miami, Florida theater named after Manuel Artime, a leader of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, the current leader of the island.

The Administration says it is ending business transactions that benefit the Castro regime but give little to the Cuban people. A five-point Presidential Policy Directive asserts:

I will seek to promote a stable, prosperous, and free country for the Cuban people. To that end, we must ensure that U.S. funds are not channeled to a regime that has failed to meet the most basic requirements of a free and just society.

A 2015 bill first proposed an embargo focusing on entities tied to the Grupo de Administracion Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), the business arm of the Cuban military. The legislation did not progress, but the three sponsors — including Senator Marco Rubio — urged Trump to adopt it.

The US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council claims 60% of the Cuban economy is under GAESA’s authority, including up to 80% of tourism.


Trump Chooses Son’s Wedding Planner to Run New York Federal Housing Programs

Donald Trump has chosen his son Eric’s wedding planner to oversee federal housing programs in New York.

Lynne Patton has no housing experience and claims a law degree that Quinnipiac University says she never earned. But since 2009, she has been the Trump family’s “event planner”, arranged tournaments at Trump golf courses, and served as the liaison to the family during the Presidential campaign. From 2011 until January 2017, she helped run the Eric Trump Foundation, now under investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for taking charity money from the Donald J. Trump Foundation and channeling it back into Trump Hotels.

Patton will be in charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, supervising the distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars.

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