Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, found himself back in the spotlight for better and for worse on Monday.
As the US president appointed him to a new White House role, it was revealed that Kushner would testify before a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in last year's election.With Kushner at its helm, Trump's White House Office of American Innovation is designed to overhaul the federal government with input from the private sector, it was announced on Monday. The venture, which will bring together a team of former executives to privatize certain government functions, will follow through on the president's business-minded approach to running the country.The initiative, first reported by the Washington Post, was rolled out on the same day it was revealed that Kushner would testify before the Senate intelligence committee as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the US presidential election.
Kushner's offer to appear before the Senate panel stems from his meeting with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US. The encounter at Trump Tower also included the former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned from the Trump administration after misleading vice-president Mike Pence about the nature of his discussions with Kislyak.
Late on Monday a Russian bank under western economic sanctions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine also disclosed that its executives had met Kushner during the election campaign.
The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said there was nothing "nefarious" about Kushner's meeting with the Russian ambassador, while adding that Kushner had "volunteered" to answer questions from the Senate panel.
"Given the role that he played both during the campaign and the transition, he met with countless individuals," Spicer told reporters Monday.
"That was part of his job, that was part of his role, and he executed it completely as he was supposed to."
A White House official said: "Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials.
"Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr's committee, but has not yet received confirmation," the official said, referring to the North Carolina senator Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee.
Burr and the leading Democrat on the committee said in a joint statement: "Mr Kushner will certainly not be the last person the committee calls to give testimony, but we expect him to be able to provide answers to key questions that have arisen in our inquiry." They said the timing was still being determined.
Executives of Vnesheconombank (VEB) had talks with Kushner during a roadshow last year, Reuter reported late on Monday, citing an emailed statement from the bank. 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". VEB declined to say where the meetings took place or the dates.
There was no immediate comment from Kushner.
According to the Reuters report, US officials said that Kushner met in December with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of Vnesheconombank. White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks confirmed the meetings, saying nothing of consequence was discussed.
Gorkov was appointed head of VEB in early 2016 by Vladimir Putin. He graduated from the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia's internal security agency. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Merit for Services to the Fatherland, according to the bank's website.
To date, Kushner's interactions with foreign diplomats, including the Russian envoy, have drawn far less scrutiny than Flynn's. But then so have many of the 36-year-old mogul's dealings since he traded his office in Manhattan for a perch at the side of the most powerful man in the country.
Married to Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, Kushner has been a decidedly quiet force in a White House marked by reality TV-style theatrics. While other top officials blitz the airwaves almost daily and anonymously text message reporters to feed into the administration's drama, Kushner remains relatively media-shy.
But he is regarded as one of the few who truly has the president's ear, a kindred spirit of sorts to Trump despite the latter's bombastic public demeanor. Kushner, like his father-in-law, was born to a property mogul and pursued the family business of real estate development in Manhattan.
Both their fathers faced controversy. While Fred Trump was sued for discriminating against African Americans and Puerto Ricans seeking to rent apartments in his properties, Charles Kushner was jailed for tax evasion, making illegal campaign contributions and witness tampering.(Source: The Guardian)