Bloomberg reported Monday that in March 2016 U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, met with Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at a lunch hosted by the now controversial Center for the National Interest. The meeting is significant, reports Bloomberg, as “questions have recently been raised about the center for its ties to Russia, including its interactions with Maria Butina.”
Butina is the accused Russian agent whose high-level contacts in Washington included 2015 meetings between a visiting Russian official and two senior officials at the U.S. Federal Reserve and Treasury Department.
The meetings, revealed by several people familiar with the sessions and a report from the Center for National Interest, which arranged the meetings, involved Stanley Fischer, Fed vice chairman at the time, and Nathan Sheets, then Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.
Butina traveled to the United States in April 2015 with Alexander Torshin, then the Russian Central Bank deputy governor, and they took part in separate meetings with Fischer and Sheets to discuss U.S.-Russian economic relations during Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration.
The Center for the National Interest, a Washington foreign policy think tank that often advocates pro-Russia views and Bloomberg reports it was “partnership with the center that would help catapult Kushner to his role as a key diplomat in the White House.” Kushner and the president of the center Dimitri Simes organized Trump’s "America First" speech at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016 “with writing input and a guest list from the center.”
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Kushner first met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at that event - an encounter he left off disclosure forms when he initially joined the government. Kissinger and Kushner continued there relationship and Kissinger even wrote the entry for Kushner in Time's 100 most influential people issue.
Butina’s meetings were documented in a Center for the National Interest report seen by Reuters that outlined its Russia-related activities from 2013 to 2015. The report described the meetings as helping bring together "leading figures from the financial institutions of the United States and Russia."
A judge in late July ordered Butina, 29, jailed until her trial after U.S. prosecutors argued she has ties to Russian intelligence and could flee the United States. Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges she acted as a foreign agent for Russia.
Butina worked for Torshin, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and served as his interpreter at various Washington events.
Fischer, an in email to Reuters, confirmed he met with Torshin and his interpreter. While he could not recall details, Fischer said the conversation involved "the state of the Russian economy" and Torshin's new role as deputy central bank governor.
Another person familiar with the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it occurred on April 7, 2015, and confirmed Butina attended.
Federal prosecutors have accused Butina of conspiring with two American citizens and a top Russian official to influence U.S. policy toward Russia and infiltrate a gun rights group believed to be the National Rifle Association. The NRA is an influential pro-gun lobby with close ties to Republican politicians including President Donald Trump.
Questions relating to Russia have cast a cloud over Trump's presidency.