US special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is investigating senior White House adviser Jared Kushner over contacts with Israeli officials, according to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday.
Mueller, investigating Russian ties to the US President Donald Trump’s campaign, is looking at overtures Kushner made to foreign leaders at Israel’s behest to block a United Nations Security Council vote in December 2016 condemning West Bank settlements, the newspaper reported.
Kushner is also being asked about his role in the firing of former FBI director James Comey, according to the report.
Jerusalem in December mounted a furious, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign to have the UN resolution quashed, with the Barack Obama administration withholding the US’s veto power and allowing the measure to pass.
As part of the flurry of diplomatic efforts, senior Israeli officials apparently contacted Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, as well as Stephen Bannon, another senior Trump aide, and others to see if the incoming president could intervene to torpedo the December 23 resolution.
At the time, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also serves as foreign minister, personally called the transition team to ask for help against the measure.
Trump condemned the vote at the time, questioning the efficacy of the United Nations, and promising that “things will be different” when he took office as president.
He also contacted Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose country had drafted the resolution, and persuaded him to postpone the vote, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In February, Foreign Policy magazine reported that Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Trump’s national security adviser before being ousted over contacts with foreign officials, led a “vigorous” effort against the vote at Israel’s request, calling ambassadors of states on the council in a bid to have them change their vote against the resolution, to no avail.
Trump’s transition team reportedly also asked the State Department to hand over all contact information for the Security Council’s 14 other members ahead of the December 23 vote on the resolution, which branded Israeli settlements as illegal, and said Jerusalem and West Bank land captured by Israel in the 1967 war, including the Old City, was occupied Palestinian territory.
The request was denied.
The scion of a wealthy New York-New Jersey developer, Kushner’s ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predate his White House role. The New York Times reportedearlier this year that Netanyahu had slept in Kushner’s bedroom when staying by the family during a trip to the US years earlier and that the two were friendly.
He has taken a leading role in efforts to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, bringing him to Israel several times since Trump took office.
It was not immediately clear what connection there was, if any, between Kushner’s contacts with Israeli officials and Mueller’s probe into Russian interference.
Kushner has already come under scrutiny for his contacts with foreigners, including meetings with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, who heads a state-run bank.
Earlier this week his lawyer Abbe Lowell said Kushner actually encouraged others in President Donald Trump’s campaign to decline meetings with foreign people who “go back home and claim they have special access to gain importance for themselves.”
The comments came after a Senate panel said Kushner was not full forthcoming in providing info requested for their own investigation into Russian meddling.