Russian involvement in US elections: Probe looking at Kushner foreign business contacts
Washington, Feb 20: Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing Jared Kushner's efforts to get foreign investors beyond Russia to provide financing for his company during the presidential transition, including in China, CNN reported on Tuesday.
The probe was previously only said to have focused on the Russia contacts of President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son in law, only with the campaigns data analytics and Kushner's ties with disgraced ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller's team is probing Kushner's conversations during the presidential transition to get financing for the Kushner Companies-backed 666 Fifth Avenue office building in New York after financial setbacks, CNN said, citing people familiar with the investigation. Kushner's father founded the real estate developer and lender.
CNN said Mueller's investigators have yet to contact Kushner Companies or request interviews with its executives, and the reasons behind the focus on the outreach to foreign investors are unclear. Kushner played a leading role in the presidential transition teams contacts with foreign governments, and has indicated he spoke during that time with more than 50 contacts from over 15 countries.
One week after Trumps November 8, 2016 election, Kushner met with the chairman and other executives from the Chinese group Anbang Insurance, The New York Times has reported. Kushner and Anbang chairman Wu Xiaohui were close to finishing a deal for the Chinese conglomerate to invest in 666 Fifth Avenue. But the talks broke down, the Times said. Other business dealings targeted by Mueller include negotiations on the same property with Qatar's former prime minister Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, according to The Intercept. But that deal also failed. Kushner purchased the building in 2007 for USD 1.8 billion in a mostly debt deal, but the housing crisis triggered financial setbacks for 666 Fifth Avenue, leading Vornado Realty Trust to take a 49.5 per cent stake in 2011.
"In all of Mr Kushner's extensive cooperation with all inquiries, there has not been a single question asked nor document sought on the 666 building or Kushner Co. deals," Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell told CNN.
"Nor would there be any reason to question these regular business transactions." Kushner also met Sergey Gorkov, chairman of Russian state-run Vnesheconombank, during the transition, but he testified in Congress that the meeting was only for official government purposes. However, the bank has said the talks were part of a series of business meetings. And The Washington Post has reported that Mueller is probing that meeting as well.