Jared Kushner Faces Backlash For Role In Trump Jr.'s Russia Meeting

Jul 12, 2017
Originally published on July 12, 2017 4:34 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Let's consider one aspect of the uproar over President Trump's eldest son's meeting with a Russian lawyer last year in Trump Tower. That meeting came to light in part because of something called the SF86. It's a government form. You have to file one to get a security clearance. And the one that set this latest controversy in motion belongs to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law.

NPR national security correspondent Mary Louise Kelly is here to explain. Hey, Mary Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How exactly did Jared Kushner's security clearance form help set off this chain of events?

KELLY: Well, so as we know, Jared Kushner is not just the president's son-in-law, but he's the president's White House adviser. And for that latter role, he needs a security clearance. So to get a security clearance just like anybody else, he had to file Standard Form 86. The problem was that his form contained major omissions.

He did not mention, for example, that he'd met with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. He did not mention a meeting with a Russian banker whose bank is under U.S. sanctions. So recently Kushner resubmitted, and it is this latest SF86 which discloses a meeting June 9 last year that included Kushner, campaign chair Paul Manafort, Trump's son Donald Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was presented as having dirt to peddle on Hillary Clinton.

SHAPIRO: Is there any question that those meetings should have been disclosed on the form, any gray area as to whether this info was required to be reported?

KELLY: No. This is an extremely detailed form. I've got it here. It's 127 pages.

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

KELLY: It asks you every country you've ever visited, everywhere you've ever lived. You know, it wants to know everybody you've ever had a business dealing with ever in your whole life. The relevant section for our purposes is page 76. And the question is - this has to do with foreign contacts. The question - I will read it to you - is, have you or any member of your immediate family in the past seven years had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment, such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc., or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S. - close quote. So the new form that Kushner has submitted, according to his attorney, Jamie Gorelick - his new form now describes more than a hundred calls or meetings, most of them during the transition.

SHAPIRO: And just to be clear, the reason his form triggered this is that the other people in the meeting - Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. - are not in the White House, so they didn't have to fill out this form.

KELLY: They are not required to file this form.

SHAPIRO: How unusual is it to amend a form like this?

KELLY: It's not unusual. National security lawyers I reached today said this happens pretty frequently. But there's an incentive to get it right the first time because it's a felony to - not to. You can go to jail. You can risk your security clearance. You can risk fines.

SHAPIRO: Do people often go to prison for these sorts of things?

KELLY: No, they don't. It's really prosecutors. And the reason is the legal standard is, did you knowingly falsify or conceal facts? And that's a hard thing to prove.

SHAPIRO: Do you expect other shoes to drop here?

KELLY: Yes, they may well. And one thing to put on the radar is that there are other folks who have obviously filed this form. These are not public record. They are not classified, but they're confidential. And one thing to put on the record today is that today is the deadline for Attorney General Jeff Sessions for part of his form to be made public, specifically the part that deals with his contacts with Russian officials.

Now, this is because a non-profit, non-partisan ethics watchdog group by the name of American Oversight filed a FOIA request - Freedom of Information request. A judge granted that request and gave the Justice Department one month to comply. And Ari, that month expires today.

SHAPIRO: I'm sure you'll be reading that form in great detail.

KELLY: I hope to be, yes.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thanks a lot.

KELLY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.