In almost the same moment that the wheels of Air Force One went up, carrying the president on his first overseas trip, new headlines about the investigation of Donald Trump's Russian influence scandal started popping up - and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner appeared to be at the center of them.
This baloney ain't kosher:no such thing as an Orthodox "rabbinical pass"2travel on Shabbat under these circumstances https://t.co/qTPUx2kxnS
- Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 19, 2017
According to a Washington Post report published this afternoon, law enforcement agents are scrutinizing a "senior White House adviser" who is "close to the president" as a "person of interest" in their investigation of Trump's Russian influence scandal.
Separately, the New York Times reported that Trump told Russian officials visiting the Oval Office that by firing FBI Director James Comey the day before, he had relieved "great pressure" on him "because of Russia."
"I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job," Trump reportedly told ambassador Sergey Kislyak and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. As a result, "I'm not under investigation."
The statement is one more piece of evidence that Donald Trump has actively obstructed justice by trying to squelch the FBI investigation, which the Post now says reaches into his inner circle.
"The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort," according to the Post.
Close friends of Flynn say that Trump still communicates with him regularly, even telling him to "stay strong." Clearly, someone very close to Trump is giving him very bad advice.
-person of interest is a "WH official"
– 3 officials had confirmed Russia contact
– 1 of them works at WH, Jared Kushner
- Ari Melber (@AriMelber) May 19, 2017
While sources did not name the individual under investigation, speculation quickly zeroed in on Kushner, who was one of the few people in the White House who urged Trump to fire Comey.
Even Steve Bannon reportedly advised against the move, foreseeing that it would only make the FBI more determined to investigate the Trump campaign, transition, and administration.
- Yashar (@yashar) May 19, 2017
As Eric Levitz points out at New York Magazine, Kushner's participation in Flynn's diplomatic backchannel to the Kremlin - and the possible criminal exposure created by his meeting with Vladimir Putin's favorite banker - explain why someone who is usually so pragmatic would give such uncharacteristically terrible counsel.
"If Michael Flynn got up to anything untoward with Russian operatives during the transition period, there's a decent chance Kushner did too," Levitz says.
In fact, Flynn was at Kushner's meeting with Sergey N. Gordon, the chief of Vnesheconombank at Trump Tower, an encounter that Kushner later "forgot" to disclose when he filed the paperwork for his security clearance.
Today's headlines should, therefore, surprise absolutely no one. Jared Kushner has been instrumental in this scandal all along, and he's probably coaching his father-in-law to maintain Michael Flynn's loyalty through regular contact.
Of course, the investigation has yet to lead to any arrests. But if anyone still in Trump's inner circle is plausibly bound for prison, it's Kushner. As Rachel Maddow would say, "watch this space."
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