White House lawyers reportedly wanted US President Donald Trump to remove Jared Kushner from his team of advisers as investigators uncovered his son-in-law’s links to Russia.
Although the suggestion was ultimately rejected, a group of Trump’s lawyers debated the dangers of keeping the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser on the team as they felt the investigations into Russian collusion could harm the president and prevent Kushner from doing his job, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
Kushner has denied Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, and has stressed that he has “nothing to hide” from investigators.
The White House legal team in July debated the damage Kushner could potentially do to the administration after details emerged of a June 2016 meeting with a Russian-American lawyer he was invited to attend by Donald Trump Jr. and several other meetings with foreign officials which Kushner failed to disclose on the forms required for him to obtain security clearance.
John Dowd, who currently heads the president’s legal team, said as far as he knows the suggestion was never actually taken to Trump.
“I didn’t agree with that view at all. I thought it was absurd,” Dowd said in an interview Monday. “I made my views known.”
Dowd added that in his opinion Kushner was “absolutely terrific” and “a great asset, real gentleman, a pleasure to work with.”
However, Marc Kasowitz, who headed the legal team at the time of the reported debate, denied any involvement in such discussions.
“I never discussed with other lawyers for the President that Jared Kushner should step down from his position at the White House,” he said in a statement. “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.”
White House lawyer Ty Cobb described Kushner as “among the President’s most trusted, competent, selfless and intelligent advisers.” He blamed disgruntled former members of Trump’s administration for leaking the information in an attempt to harm the senior adviser’s reputation.
“Those whose agendas were and remain focused on sabotaging him and his family for misguided personal reasons are no longer around,” said Cobb in a statement. “All clandestine efforts to undermine him never gained traction.”
Although Cobb did not accuse anyone specifically with leaking the story, Stephen Bannon, who was fired last month from the White House, was believed to have been locked in a power struggle with Kushner.
Bannon did not respond to The Washington Post’s requests for comments.
Back in May Kushner had reportedly been encouraged to take a break from the White House over the swirling allegations against him.
In July Kushner held closed-door meetings with investigators on the Senate and House intelligence panels. In a statement given before the questioning the president’s son-in-law denied any wrong-doing.
He also rejected reports that he had discussed setting up a secret back-channel with the Russian ambassador to the US.
He said he did speak with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower. But he said that conversation was about policy in Syria.
Kushner said that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure line for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his “generals,” Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used. Kushner said he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication.
He also said he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak. But he says no specific policies were discussed.
Associated Press contributed to this report.