White House senior advisor Jared Kushner doesn’t do many interviews, so those who’ve wondered about his role in a variety of stories – including the Russia scandal – have generally been left wanting.
It made it all the more notable when he sat down with Axios’ Jonathan Swan for an interview that aired last night on HBO. Kushner’s futile defense of Donald Trump’s racism has generated plenty of headlines, and for good reason. But the back and forth on Russia was every bit as important, if not more so.
SWAN: On June 8, 2016, you were sent an email with an offer of help for the Trump campaign from the Russian government.
KUSHNER: I’m sorry? Which email are you talking about?
SWAN: The email from Rod Goldstone.
KUSHNER: Look, Jonathan –
SWAN: My question to you is why didn’t you pick up the phone and call the FBI? It was an email that said Russia, that said the Russian government was trying to help. Like, why didn’t you do that?
Though the presidential son-in-law clearly didn’t think so, it was a good question. Kushner did, after all, receive an email with a subject line that read, “FW: Russia - Clinton - private and confidential.”
He nevertheless spent the next minute downplaying the significance of the email and the infamous Trump Tower meeting he attended with Russian emissaries. He complained about how busy he was at the time (“Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign….”) and the about attitudes of “self-righteous” people who’ve played “Monday morning quarterback.”
It led to an important follow-up question: would Kushner call the FBI if Russia again offered assistance to the Trump campaign?
“I don’t know,” Kushner replied. “It’s hard to do hypotheticals.”
That’s certainly one way to look at it. Alternatively, it’s very easy to do hypotheticals when someone asks you how you’d respond to a foreign adversary offering illegal campaign assistance – for the second time.
But Kushner’s in a bit of a jam. If he said, “Of course I’d contact the FBI if it happened again,” then his 2016 actions would appear negligent. If Kushner said, “No, even now, I still wouldn’t contact the authorities,” he’d look worse.
So one of the most powerful officials in the White House was left with, “It’s hard to do hypotheticals.”
During a rather remarkable Senate hearing a few weeks ago, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) asked Attorney General Bill Barr: “Going forward, what if a foreign adversary … offers a presidential candidate dirt on a competitor in 2020? Do you agree with me the campaign should immediately contact the FBI?”
It took a little effort, but the president’s AG eventually said yes. So what is it, exactly, that Kushner is unsure about?