Trump's legal team suggested asking son-in-law Kushner to leave amid widening Russia probe

President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had several interactions with Russian officials in the campaign and transition that have drawn interest from investigators.
President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had several interactions with Russian officials in the campaign and transition that have drawn interest from investigators.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (Washington Post) - A small group of White House lawyers this summer urged that President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner step down from his White House role amid a broadening probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russians in the 2016 election, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion.

Some of the lawyers worried that the presence of Mr Kushner, a senior adviser with a broad domestic and foreign policy portfolio, created potential legal complications for Mr Trump, while the probe threatened to limit Mr Kushner's ability to perform his job, these people said.

Mr Kushner had several interactions with Russian officials in the campaign and transition that have drawn interest from investigators, and some White House lawyers warned that even casual discussions between him and Mr Trump could spark additional scrutiny.

The debate, first reported on Monday (Sept 11) night by the Wall Street Journal, took place before a July shake-up of the legal team. The idea to press Mr Kushner to leave was ultimately rejected.

In a statement on Monday night, White House lawyer Ty Cobb blamed the disclosure of the internal debate on former White House staffers seeking to tarnish Mr Kushner, who Mr Cobb described as "among the President's most trusted, competent, selfless and intelligent advisers".

"Those whose agendas were and remain focused on sabotaging him and his family for misguided personal reasons are no longer around," said Mr Cobb, who was brought aboard in July to specialise in the Russia inquiry. "All clandestine efforts to undermine him never gained traction."

Mr John Dowd, also a Trump lawyer, confirmed on Monday that the subject was raised, but said he heartily disagreed with the idea."That's all I have to say about it," he said.

Mr Cobb declined to say which former staffers he believed were trying to undermine Mr Kushner. Former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon, who was dismissed last month, had been a rival to Mr Kushner in the West Wing. Mr Bannon did not respond to requests for comment.

Other people familiar with the Trump lawyers' debate said Mr Kushner's presence in the White House created risks that were logical discussion topics for the legal team as it sought to minimise risks for Mr Trump amid a widening investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The lawyers "would have been dummies" not to consider walling the president off from another person who would become a major subject for the special counsel's investigation, said one person briefed on the discussion.

Mr Kushner had met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and also with an executive from a major Russian bank.

At the time of the lawyers' debate, Mr Trump's legal team was preparing for a new revelation regarding Mr Kushner that was about to be shared with Congress.

From reviewing internal e-mails in preparation for answering investigators' questions, the lawyers knew about a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 that Mr Donald Trump Jr had arranged after being promised damaging information about Mrs Hillary Clinton.

The lawyers knew that Mr Kushner had attended the meeting, and that he had not disclosed it when reporting his contacts with foreign individuals. The New York Times first reported on that meeting on July 8.