President Donald Trump’s affinity for promoting members of his family to enormously important positions as members of his staff, has horrified Republicans and Democrats alike. Now though, it appears there might be some serious consequences, at least for Trump’s stepson, Jared Kushner.
A former Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, and Ambassador under the Obama administration, second-term Representative Don Bayer (D-VA) understands the importance of vetting a high-ranking government official. The New York Times reported that Kushner had omitted key details from the questionnaire intended to examine him for security clearance. According to Bayer, that small oversight could cost him his position, or even land him in jail. Bayer told The Hill:
‘Having omitted really significant pieces of information, which I’m not a prosecutor but, a quick reading of the law suggests that… a security clearance could be denied just on this alone and might even be [an] indictable offense.’
All the trouble started because an individual seeking top-level security clearance is required by law to disclose any relationships or meetings with officials in a foreign country. Kushner omitted meetings with several Russian contacts from the vetting process. Even though the 36 year-old real estate investor-turned-government official characterized the omission as an honest mistake, Democrats in the House see it differently. In a strongly worded letter to the directors of the FBI and National Background Investigations Bureau, they expressed concern about Kushner’s omission, and even explored the legal ramifications.
‘Lack of candor, particularly regarding contacts with Russian officials, was a significant issue for the Trump Transition. … We are concerned that Jared Kushner may have engaged in similar deception. … Knowingly falsifying or concealing information on a SF-86 questionnaire is a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Given the severity of the allegations and still unanswered questions about the administration’s recently uncovered covert dealings with Russian government and intelligence officials, we are requesting that Mr. Kushner’s interim top-secret security clearance be suspended pending a review of Mr. Kushner’s compliance with the laws and regulation governing security clearances.’
As we wait to hear back about a possible security clearance suspension, it appears that an indictment for his dishonesty might not be so far-fetched, although experts say it’s unlikely. John V. Berry, a partner at the law firm of Berry & Berry, PLLC, believes the FBI would likely be devoting more resources to an investigation and a possible indictment if Kushner were a “normal person.” He told The Hill that he believes “it’s very likely” Trump’s son-in-law would be “charged with lack of candor for non-disclosures, in which case… you ultimately fail to get the clearance, and it would stop the processing, especially if we’re dealing with high-level foreign officials.” Fortunately for Kushner (and perhaps unfortunately for America), though, Berry says:
‘I honestly don’t think that unless the FBI wanted to make issue out of it that it would be something he would be indicted [for].’
So even though it’s unlikely that the FBI will push a case to indict the president’s son-in-law, it’s becoming more and more clear that the tangled web of poorly-concealed ties between the Trump campaign and their Russian allies might be a serious issue for the administration going forward. Time will tell if anything tangible comes of it.
Image via Getty/Mark Wilson