By Steve Holland and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON A Russian bank under U.S. economic sanctions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine disclosed on Monday 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.Kushner, 36, married to Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump, has agreed to testify to a Senate committee investigating whether Russia tried to interfere in the election.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.Executives of Russian state development bank Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a bank roadshow in 2016 when it was preparing a new strategy, the bank said."As part of the preparation of the new strategy, executives of Vnesheconombank met with representatives of leading financial institutes in Europe, Asia and America multiple times during 2016," VEB said in an emailed statement.It said roadshow 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."There was no immediate comment from Kushner.In an article posted on Dec. 18, Forbes estimated that Jared Kushner, his brother Josh and his parents, Charles and Seryl, have a fortune worth at least $1.8 billion, more than half of which Forbes estimates is held in real estate.
Forbes did not provide a specific estimate for Jared Kushner’s net worth on his own.VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates. 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, the CEO of Vnesheconombank. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings.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, but has not received any confirmation regarding a time for a meeting," Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing.The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate panel also said Kushner had agreed to be interviewed.
Simply meeting with representatives of a U.S.-sanctioned entity is not a violation of sanctions or against the law.Evgeny Buryakov, 41, a Russian citizen who worked at Vnesheconombank and whom U.S. authorities accused of posing as a banker while participating in a New York spy ring, pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy charge on Friday. Buryakov admitted in federal court in Manhattan to acting as an agent for the Russian government without notifying U.S. authorities.CLASSIFIED INFORMATION
Also on Monday, a mystery rooted in Trump's claim that he was wiretapped by then President Barack Obama during the election campaign deepened with the disclosure that a top congressional Republican reviewed classified information on the White House grounds about potential surveillance of some Trump campaign associates.U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, visited the White House the night before announcing on Wednesday that he had information that indicated some Trump associates may have been subjected to some level of intelligence activity before Trump took office on Jan. 20.
Democrats have said Nunes, who was a member of Trump's transition team, can no longer run a credible investigation of Russian hacking, the U.S. election and any potential involvement by Trump associates. Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi last week called Nunes "a willing stooge of Trump."Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said in a statement that Nunes "met with his source at the White House grounds in order to have proximity to a secure location where he could view the information provided by the source."White House spokesman Spicer did not shed any light on who at the White House helped Nunes gain access to a secure location.It was the latest twist in a saga that began on March 4 when Trump said on Twitter without providing evidence that he "just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory."FBI Director James Comey told Congress last Monday he had seen no evidence to support the claim.Trump's mention of wiretapping drew attention away from U.S. intelligence agencies having said that Russia tried to help Trump in the election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.Nunes told reporters on Wednesday that he had briefed Trump "on the concerns I had about incidental collection and how it relates to President-elect Trump and his transition team and the concerns that I have." After an uproar over the allegations and the fact that he briefed Trump first before members of his own committee, Nunes apologised on Thursday for the way he handled the information. (Additional reporting by Elena Fabrichnaya and Polina Devitt in Moscow and John Walcott and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, Mark Hosenball and Steve Holland; editing by Yara Bayoumy and Grant McCool)
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Updated Date: Mar 28, 2017 02:45:06 IST