By Devlin Barrett,
Congressional investigators will question senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Monday as the multiple probes into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign intensify and focus more directly on those closest to the president.
Kushner is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday, then be questioned — again in private — by the House Intelligence Committee the following day.
Kushner is not the only one close to the president facing greater scrutiny from Congress. The Senate Judiciary Committee had planned to question Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort this week, but that has been delayed indefinitely while the committee continues to negotiate with the men’s attorneys for documents and information.
Looming over all those discussions is the probe by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III — a criminal investigation to see if there was coordination between agents of the Russian government and advisers to Trump during the campaign. That probe is also looking into possible financial misdeeds by Manafort and others, according to people familiar with the inquiries.
Some lawyers not involved in the case expressed surprise that, given the potential legal pitfalls of the criminal investigation, Kushner or any other Trump advisers would take the risk of talking to Congress, given that such statements could be used against them later by criminal prosecutors.
“It’s a very difficult tightrope to walk,’’ said Justin Dillon, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “He has to balance the political fallout from taking the Fifth Amendment with the potential criminal fallout of talking.’’
Dillon predicted anything Kushner tells the committee will be shared with Mueller.
The Kushner interview also comes after the president and his legal team have discussed his power to pardon those close to him and even himself. After a Washington Post report on those conversations, the president tweeted this weekend that he has “complete power to pardon.’’
Dillon said the possibility of a future pardon could affect Kushner’s overall legal strategy.
“No one who has paid any attention to this administration should doubt that if Kushner ever needs a pardon, he will get one,’’ he said.
Through lawyers and his spokesman, Kushner has long insisted he did nothing wrong. Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell has said his client “is prepared to voluntarily cooperate and provide whatever information he has on the investigations to Congress.’’ He said Kushner “appreciates the opportunity to assist in putting this matter to rest.’’
Kushner is expected to answer the committee’s questions and not invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a person familiar with Kushner’s thinking.
Kushner is not expected to be under oath during his questioning Monday — but that arrangement still poses significant legal risks to someone under investigation.
In 2009, baseball player Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to the crime of making misrepresentations to Congress when he denied having conversations with another player about steroid and human growth hormone. That interview with committee staffers took place behind closed doors, and Tejada was not under oath at the time.
Kushner is likely to face extensive questions about meetings he attended with Russian government officials or people connected to the Russian government.
In June 2016, he attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York arranged by his brother in law, Donald Trump Jr., on the premise that a lawyer had damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That meeting is also being investigated by the FBI and Mueller.
Washington lawyer Karina V. Lynch said Sunday that she has been hired to help represent the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Lynch previously served as legal counsel to investigative committees on Capitol Hill, including serving as investigative counsel to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who pressed for Trump Jr. to testify behind closed doors this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Lynch said she will supplement rather than replace Alan Futerfas, who has handled Trump Jr.’s response to the revelation about the June 2016 meeting.
Investigators have also been interested in meetings Kushner had in December — after Trump’s election but before he was sworn in as president. That month, he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then later met with Sergey Gorkov, head of Vnesheconbank, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014.
The bank has said the session was to talk to Kushner about his family’s real estate business. The White House has said the meeting was unrelated to business and was part of Kushner’s busy diplomatic schedule.
Kushner’s meetings with foreigners, and Russians in particular, have become a sticking point for his security clearance process.
Three times since January, Kushner has filed updates to his national security questionnaire, to add previously undisclosed meetings with foreign officials. Such mistakes can have significant legal and career consequences for government employees, because it is a crime to submit false information on such forms.
One update added more than 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which came during the presidential transition, according to one of Kushner’s lawyers, who have said he did nothing wrong and his meetings simply reflect his role as Trump’s principle adviser on foreign policy issues.
Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.