First, the bad news: The Senate Intelligence Committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is planning to grill Kushner, 36, about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, The New York Times reported Monday, citing administration and congressional officials.
Among the meetings in question is a previously undisclosed sit-down with the head of Russia’s largest state-owned bank, Vnesheconombank, which drew sanctions from the Obama administration after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.
Until now, the White House had only acknowledged a meeting Kushner and Kislyak had in December, before President Trump’s inauguration. That first meeting, said to be intended to open the lines of communication with the Trump administration, took place in Trump Tower and was also attended by former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned last month amid allegations he lied about discussing sanctions with Kislyak. (Flynn was officially asked to step down because he misled Vice President Pence about his talks with the Russian ambassador.)
When Kislyak requested a second meeting later that month, Kushner asked a deputy to go in his place, officials told the Times. But, at Kislyak’s request, Kushner later met with Vnesheconombank chief Sergey N. Gorkov.
Asked for comment, White House spokesperson Hope Hicks told the Times that Kushner didn’t mention the meetings to senior staff members earlier because he believed them to be “inconsequential.”
“There was nothing to get out in front of on this,” she said.
Shortly after The New York Times report was published Monday morning, CNN reported that Kushner has offered to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Russia meetings.
“Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared Kushner served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials,” a White House spokesman said in a statement. “Given this role, he has volunteered to speak with Chairman Burr’s Committee, but has not yet received confirmation.”
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Also on Monday, Kushner was announced as the head of the newly created White House Office of American Innovation, which according to The Washington Post will be “staffed by former business executives” who have been given “sweeping authority to overhaul the federal bureaucracy.”
“We should have excellence in government,” Kushner told The Post ahead of Monday’s announcement.
“The government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens,” he added.
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That was the good news - but Kushner is already facing social media backlash over this announcement, too.
*Jared Kushner clears throat at meeting of government agency heads*- Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) March 27, 2017
"What if every department had a rich dad?"
Jared Kushner just got promoted to the highest-ever level in Government Cosplay.- John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) March 27, 2017
So other agencies are being slashed so that "Jared Kushner" can have his own agency in 45's new family business (our government)? #resist- Ione Bohley (@Ione_Bohley) March 27, 2017
Many pointed out the former media executive and real estate developer’s lack of government experience.
Jared Kushner is about as qualified to do government overhaul as Betty White is to play linebacker for the Patriots.- Impeach Donald Trump (@Impeach_D_Trump) March 27, 2017
And one Twitter user marveled at what a difference a day makes:
You go to bed and Jared Kushner's trending for being tasked with reorganizing gov, then wake to him trending for Senate intel questioning.- Nathaniel Spuewell (@natespuewell) March 27, 2017
“You go to bed and Jared Kushner’s trending for being tasked with reorganizing gov, then wake to him trending for Senate intel questioning,” wrote @natespuewell.