//  7/24/17  //  Quick Reactions

We should all aspire to be as classy as Jared Kushner, who has displayed a Trumpian tendency to blame everyone around him except himself for everything that is wrong. For example, when Kushner was asked about the meeting he took with a Russian lawyer and Russian officials about information that Russia had on Hillary Clinton, Kushner referred all questions to Donald Jr., who was also at that meeting.

But because Kushner has messed up so many times, he’s had to find other people to blame for his mishaps besides Don Junior. Kushner has had to repeatedly update his SF-86 form (the forms required to obtain security clearances) in order to disclose multiple meetings he had with foreign (many of them Russian) officials but somehow completely forgot about when he first submitted the form. Kushner has also had to update his financial disclosure forms, since he apparently forgot about a bunch of his assets too.

I wanted to flag who Kushner has tried to blame for the omissions on his SF-86 form. Kushner has claimed that he “accidental[ly]” submitted the SF-86 form too early, and that “[t]he very next day” after the accidental submission, his team disclosed that Kushner had “numerous contacts with foreign officials” and “were going through [his] records to provide an accurate and complete list.”

The accidental-submission claim has been thoroughly debunked by everyone with knowledge of the SF-86 form, which isn’t submitted just by clicking send, or by completing some other minor task that could be “accidentally” done by Kushner’s “assistant” in Washington. (Of course Kushner would say that someone else submitted his SF-86 form accidentally. His assistant is now probably going to face a bunch of depositions and inquiries; I hope he’s paying for her legal bills and other representation.)

Kushner’s statement blames more than just his assistant who purportedly “misinterpreted” an e-mail and thus “accidentally” submitted his SF-86 form. Kushner also threw his own attorneys under the bus—specifically, Jamie Gorelick and her team at Wilmer Hale who, until two weeks ago, were representing Kushner in the investigation into Russia-related wrongdoing.

Full disclosure: I worked at Wilmer Hale for two years before I entered academia, so I’m not exactly neutral here. But the idea that Kushner’s Wilmer Hale team is to blame for the omissions on his SF-86 form strikes me as bizarre.

For example, Kushner says:

“When documents reviewed for production in connection with committee requests reminded me that meeting had occurred …. I included that meeting on a supplement. I did so even though my attorneys were unable to conclude that the Russian lawyer was a representative of any foreign country and thus fell outside the scope of the form.

Kushner would have us believe that his team of attorneys at Wilmer Hale told him not to disclose a meeting with a lawyer who had been identified as a lobbyist for the Russian government on the Magnitsky Act before the reports of Kushner meeting emerged. Mmm-kay.

Kushner’s statement also faults his team of lawyers for the omission of the June 2016 meeting from his first update to his SF-86 form. After indicating in January that Kushner would update his SF-86 form with any contacts with foreign nationals, Kushner’s lawyers updated the questionnaire in May. But the May update did not disclose his June 2016 meeting.

And again, Kushner’s depiction of the events implies that his lawyers were the ones who missed the meeting:

“[M]y attorneys have explained that the security clearance process is one in which supplements are expected and invited…. A good example is the June 9 meeting. For reasons that should be clear from the explanation of that meeting I have provided, I did not remember the meeting and certainly did not remember it as one with anyone who had to be included on an SF-86. When documents reviewed for production in connection with committee requests reminded me that meeting had occurred, and because of the language in the email chain that I then read for the first time, I included that meeting on a supplement.”

The implication is either that Kushner’s lawyers failed to identify the email memorializing the meeting in their review of potentially relevant documents, or told Kushner that he need not report the email after they had identified it. The subject line in that email was “Re: Russia – Clinton- private”; the substance of the e-mail stated “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.” It strikes me as odd that such an e-mail would be missed by a team of lawyers reviewing Kushner’s emails; it strikes me as unbelievable that a team of lawyers would say the meeting described in the e-mail did not constitute a contact worth reporting.

The lawyers I worked with at Wilmer were some of the smartest and most careful attorneys I’ve met. The idea that they would cut corners like this strikes me as incredulous. Heck, before I went to law school, I was a research associate at a small firm that worked with Wilmer Hale on a large investigative matter. Then too, the attorneys were at the office working on that project at night and on weekends; they also created an insanely organized filing and organizational system that kept track of the underlying materials that allowed them to promptly identify relevant materials when they received inquiries. These aren’t the kind of people that play fast and loose with rules, or with facts.

Much has been written about how working in the Trump administration is a recipe for compromising your reputation and your principles. It’s unfortunate that working for the Trump administration seems to carry similar risks, including for the lawyers who agreed to represent Kushner despite considerable backlash for doing so. The lawyers also aren’t in a position to defend themselves, since they continue to represent him in areas other than Russia-related wrongdoing. So of course Kushner would blame them.  Of course he would.


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