Senator Says Jared Kushner Must Go If He Shaped Foreign Policy To Aid Family Business

The White House aide allegedly turned on Qatar after the country failed to invest in a troubled Kushner property.
By Daniel Marans
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said Sunday “if it’s true” that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner swayed U.S. foreign policy against Qatar for personal financial reasons, he “has to go.”
“If it’s true, it’s damning. If it’s true, Jared Kushner has to go,” Murphy, a prominent voice on foreign policy, said of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law on ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
The Intercept reported on Friday that representatives of Kushner Companies, including Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, met with Qatari Finance Minister Ali Sharif Al Emadi in New York in April in a bid to secure Qatari financing for the firm’s distressed signature property, 666 5th Avenue.
There was a follow-up meeting between Kushner Companies representatives and Qatari officials the following day. But a deal never materialized.
Then, in early June, a coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. They proceeded to blockade the small, natural gas-rich nation, ostensibly in retaliation for Qatar’s support of islamist movements abroad and cordial relationship with Iran. The blockade remains in effect.
Trump surprised many in the diplomatic community by initially backing the Saudis and Emiratis so whole-heartedly. Qatar, a longtime American partner, is home to a key strategic base for the U.S. military in the Middle East where thousands of troops are deployed.
“We could not understand why the Trump administration was so firmly taking the Saudis’ side in this dispute between the Saudis, the Emiratis and Qatar, because the United States has very important interests in Qatar,” Murphy said Sunday.
Murphy noted the large U.S. troop presence in Qatar.
“To so firmly take the side of the Saudis against the Qataris that could potentially result in the downward spiral of the Qatari economy put thousands of Americans at risk,” he said.
Jared Kushner’s friendship with UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef al-Otaiba and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman raised suspicion at the time he had encouraged Trump to take a hard line against Qatar.
News of the Kushner family’s attempts to gain Qatari financing for a family-owned property raises the prospect that Kushner advised the president to side with the Saudis and Emiratis for personal financial reasons.
If verified, that should be grounds for Kushner’s ouster, Murphy said.
“If the reason this administration put U.S. troops at risk in Qatar was to protect the Kushners’ financial interests, then that’s all the evidence you need to make some big changes in the White House,” he said.

NBC News reported Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Kushner’s business discussions with foreign powers during the presidential transition, well before his father’s April 2017 meeting, later influenced American foreign policy. In addition to Qatari representatives, Kushner met with figures from Turkey, Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, according to the report.
The potentially damaging revelations about Kushner surfaced during an already punishing week for the Trump relative and confidant. Kushner, who had enjoyed a temporary top-secret security clearance, saw his clearance downgraded by the White House to merely “secret.”
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is under scrutiny for his and his family’s contacts with foreign officials.
Although the justification for the downgrade was not immediately clear, experts note that it was unusual for someone to have a temporary clearance for so long without receiving permanent access. The White House’s decision not to grant him a permanent security clearance likely sprang from intelligence agencies’ concerns that foreign governments have tried to influence him and that he initially failed to report his meetings with officials from those governments.
Also speaking on “This Week,” former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), a onetime Trump transition team chief, implied that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump (who’s also a White House adviser), should consider stepping down from their posts for the good of the president. (As a United States attorney, Christie sent Kushner’s father to prison, which likely chilled his relationship with Jared.)
Asked by Stephanopoulos whether Trump should fire Kushner, Christie responded, “The president’s going to have to make that judgment.”
He went on to suggest that Kushner and Ivanka might do well to spare Trump the difficulty of spurning family members by volunteering their resignations.
“The situation is made much worse by the fact that we have family members in the White House,” he said. “So for Jared and for Ivanka and for all the other members of the family who were involved in one way or the other, I think everybody’s got to focus on what’s best for the president.”

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Congressional Democrats Left Out of White House Hanukkah Party

By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and KATIE ROGERSDEC. 7, 2017

President Trump with Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik, and Jared Kushner during a Hanukkah Reception on the State Floor of the White House, on Thursday.

Doug Mills/The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The latkes were fried and the kosher lamb chops were prepared on Thursday, just as in past years, for the first White House Hanukkah party of the Trump era. But there was one prominent break with tradition: President Trump did not invite Democratic lawmakers.
Mr. Trump, who prizes loyalty and seldom forgets a slight, left Democratic members of Congress off his Hanukkah list this year, according to congressional aides tracking the invites. He also did not invite Reform Jewish leaders who have been critical of him or progressive Jewish activists who have differed with him publicly on policy issues.
The move injected a partisan tinge into a normally bipartisan celebration at the White House, where on Thursday Mr. Trump spoke to a crowd standing amid Christmas trees.
“I know for a fact there are a lot of happy people in this room,” Mr. Trump said to raucous whoops and applause, adding simply, “Jerusalem.”
He wished those assembled a Happy Hanukkah, then said, “I think this one will go down as especially special.”

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, left, at a meeting for Reform Jews this week in Boston.

Mr. Trump’s young grandchildren, who are Jewish, lit a menorah to mark the occasion.
This year’s Hanukkah party was all the more joyous for attendees because it came the day after Mr. Trump delighted many Jews, particularly those politically allied with him, by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and recommitting himself to moving the American Embassy there.
The historic moments, head-spinning developments and inside-the-White House intrigue.

“People are in a celebratory mood and just kvelling over this incredible, historic moment,” said Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, who attended the reception as well as a “Hanukkah Nightcap” party afterward at the Trump International Hotel. That affair was hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, the organization funded by the casino magnate and Republican superdonor Sheldon Adelson, and America First Action, a political action committee staffed by Trump allies.
Representatives Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee, the two Jewish Republicans in Congress, were attending the party, their offices said. But Jewish Democrats left off the invite list — many of whom have been harsh critics of Mr. Trump — were not in a festive mood.
“It’s deeply unfortunate that the White House Hanukkah Party — a bipartisan event bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish leaders alike to celebrate the Festival of Lights since 2001 — has turned into a partisan affair under this administration,” Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York said in a statement.
This year, officials slashed the size of the annual reception, inviting around 300 guests to one soiree instead of hosting 1,700 over two parties as in the past.
Among those who did not make the cut were Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, who in August criticized Mr. Trump for his handling of the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Va. On Wednesday, Rabbi Jacobs said the president should not have made his declaration about Jerusalem, arguing that it could undermine the chances of achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
The White House chalked up the limited guest list to a new approach from the president.
“I am not aware of the political affiliation of any of the guests, but I do know that this year was meant to be more personal than political,” said Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the first lady, whose office oversees White House party planning. She declined to elaborate.
But for some invitees, the message was clear.
“He did not invite people who have been hostile to him,” Mr. Klein said in an interview. He should know. After being invited to the 2009 White House Hanukkah party during President Barack Obama’s first year in office, Mr. Klein was later cut from the guest list after condemning the former president in scathing terms. (Last year, Mr. Klein referred to Mr. Obama as a “Jew-hating anti-Semite.”)
Officials from J Street, a progressive pro-Israel group that strongly backed Mr. Obama and the nuclear deal he forged with Iran — which was detested by many conservative Jews — were excluded.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said Mr. Trump’s proclamation on Jerusalem was a “consensus issue in the Jewish community.” He said it would add to an ebullient mood at the Hanukkah party, which is to mark an eight-night festival beginning Tuesday night that celebrates the Jews liberating their temple from oppressors.
Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, mingled at length with guests, attendees said, and both he and Mr. Trump were showered with compliments about the Jerusalem speech.
“It was very festive and appropriate,” said Nathan J. Diament, the policy director of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, who brought his 12-year-old son, Josh. “People were telling them, ‘Thank you,’ and, ‘Congratulations.’

Morton Klein, of the Zionist Organization of America, speaking last month at a congressional hearing about moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The attendance of a Supreme Court justice, Stephen G. Breyer, nominated in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was the only hint of bipartisanship at the gathering, Mr. Diament said.
At the party at the Trump International Hotel, in a small room adjoining the presidential ballroom, guests gathered to eat fish roe, latkes, egg salad and salmon. Attendees mingled with an assorted band of Republican representatives, including Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, Lee Zeldin of New York and Don Bacon of Nebraska.
Other boldfaced names in the Trump orbit, including David A. Clarke Jr., a former sheriff of Milwaukee County, and Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite, mingled near the bar. Several guests clutched copies of the book “Let Trump Be Trump,” by Corey Lewandowski, the president’s first campaign manager, which he had been signing earlier in the lobby.
Duvi Honig, the founder of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, a group that works to encourage business opportunities and shape public policy, was also in attendance. Of the earlier reception, he said he believed the White House had focused on inviting allies and “new kids on the block” versus people who had been invited every year in the past.
“The president’s making a nice statement recognizing how he’s judging success,” said Mr. Honig, who recently returned from a trip to Israel with the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci. “He’s an investor. He sees where the return is.”
Mr. Honig, who took photographs with Mr. Pence and Mr. Adelson, said he was impressed with Mr. Trump’s “calm, confident” demeanor at the White House.
“He wasn’t bragging about Jerusalem,” Mr. Honig said. “He said it was the right thing to do. He showed America that we can lead and make a controversial decision.”

 

 

 

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Kushner, McFarland talked to Flynn about Russia

Three sources with knowledge of the situation say top White House aide Jared Kushner was the “very senior” official who spoke with former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Dec. 22 about the pending UN Security Council debate vote on Israeli settlements, CBS News’ Major Garrett reports.
Three sources with knowledge of the situation tell CBS News that K.T. McFarland was the “senior official” on the Presidential Transition Team (PTT) Flynn spoke to in Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 29 about Russia sanctions and potential Russian reaction.
These contacts are potentially meaningful if they can be linked to behavior that is criminal or conspiratorial. But no evidence has yet surfaced to indicate either – criminality or conspiracy.

Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI on Friday, and CBS News has confirmed U.S. law enforcement officials have long suspected Flynn did not engage the Russian ambassador without being directed to do so.
The court documents from prosecutors revealed Friday also indicate multiple officials of the Trump presidential transition team were aware of Flynn’s communication with the Russian ambassador, as well as the topics discussed.
Flynn made the guilty plea in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Friday, admitting to lying to the FBI as it investigated Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Flynn turned himself into the FBI early Friday morning, and was processed and charged. Flynn’s misleading of the FBI took place while Donald Trump was president-elect.
A document filed with the court by the special counsel says that Flynn “did willfully and knowingly make materially false, fictitious and fraudulent statements and representations” to the FBI regarding his interaction with then-Russian Envoy Sergey Kislyak. In early December, after the election, he Kushner met with Kislyak at Trump Tower. On Dec. 29, Flynn called Kislyak five times, and the two spoke about sanctions against Russia that had just been imposed by President Obama over Russia’s meddling in the U.S. 2016 elections.
According to court documents released Friday, a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team in December 2016 directed Flynn to contact Russia and officials from other foreign governments to determine where they stood on an Israeli settlement U.N. resolution, influence those governments and delay the vote or defeat the resolution.
“On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governments, including Russia, to learn where each government stood on the resolution and to influence those governments to delay the vote or defeat the resolution,” the statement of offense against Flynn reads.
Kushner directing Flynn to talk to the Russians about a Security Council matter is not necessarily criminal or conspiratorial based on what has been divulged by the Special Counsel office. It was a matter of interest to the Obama Administration and the in-coming administration and dealt with Israel, a long-standing US ally.
Similarly, a conversation between McFarland and Flynn about possible Russian reaction to new sanctions is not – by itself – criminal or conspiratorial. It is a question any incoming administration would want to pursue and any incoming administration might want to inquire about a sanctions matter escalating very soon after assuming office.
Ty Cobb, White House counsel, distanced the White House from Flynn in a statement.
“Today, Michael Flynn, a former national security advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI,” Cobb said in a statement.
“The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”

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