Investigators looking at whether Jared Kushner business talks affected US policy: NBC News

Kushner watches as Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on Dec 20, 2017.
Kushner watches as Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting on Dec 20, 2017.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST/JABIN BOTSFORD

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Federal investigators are looking into whether Jared Kushner's business talks with foreigners during the presidential transition had any influence on later White House policy towards those with whom he spoke, NBC News reported on Friday (March 2).

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has asked witnesses about Kushner's attempts to secure financing for his family's real estate ventures, focusing specifically on his talks with people from Qatar and Turkey, as well as Russia, China and the United Arab Emirates, NBC News said.

NBC cited unnamed people familiar with Mueller's investigation, as well as witnesses who have been interviewed by Mueller's team. The special counsel is looking at Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and whether there was any collusion with the Trump campaign.

A spokesman for Mueller's office, Peter Carr, declined to comment on the report.

A spokesman for Kushner attorney Abbe Lowell said the report was the "mischief" of unnamed sources conducting a"misinformation campaign" to mislead the news media.

"Mr Kushner's role in the campaign and transition was to be a point person for completely appropriate contacts from foreign officials and he did not mix his or his former company's business in those contacts," the spokesman, Peter Mirijanian, said in a statement.

"Any claim otherwise is false."

Russia has denied interfering in the election, and President Donald Trump, Kushner's father-in-law, has repeatedly said there was no collusion.

Federal investigators have reached out to Turkish nationals for information on Kushner through the Federal Bureau of Investigation's legal attache office in Ankara, NBC News said.

Qatari government officials who visited the United States earlier this year considered turning over information to Mueller that they believed demonstrated their neighbours in the Gulf were coordinating with Kushner to hurt Qatar, NBC News said, citing four people familiar with the matter.

The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country's relations with the White House, the individuals told NBC News.

Kushner's family business, Kushner Companies, approached Qatar several times, including last spring, about investing in its troubled flagship property at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York, but Qatar's sovereign wealth fund declined, NBC News said, citing two sources familiar with the discussions.

Muller's team also has expressed interest in a meeting Kushner held at Trump Tower in December 2016 with former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani, people familiar with the meeting told NBC News.

The Kushner Companies' Fifth Avenue property is facing some US$1.4 billion (S$1.8 billion) in debt that is due in 2019, NBC News cited the sources as saying. Talks with Qatari officials about investing continued after Kushner entered the White House and stepped away from the business, they said.

After the collapse of talks between Qatar and the Kushner Companies, the White House strongly backed a blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which accused Qatar of backing terrorism. Kushner has played a major role in Middle East policy.

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that officials from the UAE, China, Israel and Mexico have talked privately about ways to manipulate Kushner using his business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience. The Post report quoted unnamed US officials familiar with intelligence reports on the issue.

Kushner has lost his access to top-secret US intelligence information in recent weeks because of his inability to obtain a security clearance at that level.