Donald Trump’s lawyers think it’s about time that the president stopped taking advice on the Russia investigation from his son-in-law. On Tuesday night, the New York Times reported that Trump’s attorneys “have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop.”
Now, Axios reports that the legal team is preparing to turn those complaints into policy:
President Trump’s outside legal team wants to wall off Jared Kushner from discussing the Russia investigation with his father-in-law, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions…The team contends that it isn’t out to get Kushner, but just wants to protect the president because his son-in-law is so wrapped up in the investigation. He had three meetings with Russians that special counsel Bob Mueller is sure to investigate.
Donald Trump doesn’t have the best lawyers. His primary attorney in the Russia matter, Marc Kasowitz, recently told ProPublica that he has no plans to acquire a security clearance, despite the fact that the case against his client could very well hinge on sensitive materials that he will be unable to view without one. This handicap may be less voluntary than Kasowitz lets on — according to ProPublica, the lawyer has struggled with alcoholism in the past, which is the kind of pre-existing condition that can get you barred from accessing government secrets. Trump’s other lawyer, Jay Sekulow, appears to have taken money from charity.
But with regard to Jared Kushner, these fellows probably have a point. For now, Trump’s son-in-law appears to be in deeper water than he is. Already, we know that Kushner was willing, at the very least, to consider accepting aid from the Kremlin during the 2016 campaign. And we know that, shortly after Trump’s election, Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador about setting up a secret communications channel with Moscow — one safe from the prying eyes of American intelligence agencies — and then, days later, met with the head of the Russian state-owned bank Vnesheconombank.
And we know that Kushner declined to disclose any of those meetings when seeking a top secret clearance, omissions that would seem to amount to perjury.
Generally speaking, criminal attorneys do not want their clients taking legal advice from their more legally vulnerable (alleged) co-conspirators. And Kushner’s advice on the Russia investigation, thus far, has been less than prudent: The president’s son-in-law was one of the few White House advisors who strongly encouraged Trump to fire James Comey, a move that kicked off waves of politically damaging leaks, and, eventually, the appointment of a special prosecutor.
Of course, just because the lawyers’ advice is wise doesn’t mean it will be well-received. The Trump White House is already on edge, as everyone wonders who leaked word of Don Jr.’s now infamous emails to the press. A formal attempt to restrict Kushner’s communications with his father-in-law surely won’t promote a stronger sense of solidarity or goodwill.