Some of President Donald Trump’s legal team advised him months ago that son-in -law Jared Kushner should leave the White House over concerns tied to Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
According to the report, it was Kushner’s admitted contacts with Russians during and after the campaign which caused him to stand out as a cause for concern among current senior White House staff. These contacts took center stage in media reporting of the “Russia investigation” in May after the Washington Post reported him as a “person of interest” who may have discussed opening a line of communication with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in a December, 2016 meeting.
Of particular concern to these lawyers was a meeting with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower in New York along with Donald Trump, Jr. in July, 2016. In June of this year, when the lawyers reportedly came to the conclusion Kushner must leave, that meeting was not yet public knowledge. In July, the meeting became a media-driven scandal of its own.
Kushner himself has repeatedly denied involvement in and the existence of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the ostensible subject of Mueller’s investigation.
The Journal did not identify any of the lawyers who came to the conclusion Kushner ought not to remain in his role as White House Senior Advisor, but did quote two senior members of Trump’s legal team, one of whom appeared to acknowledge that the opinion was held by some of their colleagues.
“I didn’t agree with that view at all. I thought it was absurd,” John Dowd, who is now Trump’s top personal attorney, told the Journal, going so far as to deny he was ever aware of the proposal being brought to the president.
In his interview, Dowd was also effusive in his praise of the hereditary New York real estate mogul turned White House jack-of-all-trades. He called Kushner “absolutely terrific” and “a great asset, real gentleman, a pleasure to work with.”
The previous head of the president’s personal legal team, who filled the top spot when the idea of pushing Kushner out was reportedly floated, long-time Trump confidant Marc Kassowitz, also denied he ever subcribed to the conclusion. He told the Journal in a statement:
I never discussed with other lawyers for the President that Jared Kushner should step down from his position at the White House, I never recommended to the President that Mr. Kushner should step down from that position and I am not aware that any other lawyers for the President made any such recommendation either.”
The Journal‘s anonymous sources conflicted with Dowd and Kassowitz’s contention that the president never heard the opinion that Kushner should step down. According to them, Trump was personally advised of the conclusion in a White House meeting and that “press aides to the legal team” went so far as to draft a statement explaining Kushner’s departure from the administration.
President Trump, according to one of these sources, steadfastly refused the advice, telling the lawyers that Kushner “hadn’t done anything wrong and that there was no need for him to step down.”