Last week reports appeared in the US media that the FBI had discovered “a person of interest” in the Russiagate probe, who was still unlike all the other people being investigated a member of Donald Trump’s team. This week that person has been identified and it turns out to be Donald Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner.
The expression “person of interest” has no legal meaning whatsoever. It should never be used to describe anyone whilst an investigation is underway. It insinuates that the person in question is a suspect, when he or she is not. It is particularly inappropriate when used of someone in the Russiagate investigation given that there is still no evidence that any crime was committed or anyone is suspected of committing one.
In Kushner’s case the reason for the FBI’s interest in him appears to be that last year he – like many other people – met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That meeting apparently took place in December, in other words after the election, making it difficult to see what bearing it could have on the election.
Kushner apparently also met last year with a Russian banker called Sergey Gorkov.
One of the most sinister aspects of former CIA Director John Brennan’s recent testimony to Congress was the way Brennan appeared to say that any meeting with any Russian was axiomatically suspect because all Russians must be suspected of working for Russian intelligence. Brennan even said that a US citizen who came into contact with a Russian might be be recruited by Russian intelligence without even being aware of it.
Presumably it is this sort of paranoid reasoning – which belongs more in a mental institution than a well run investigation – which sees something suspicious in a meeting between Kushner – a US businessman – and Gorkov – a Russian businessman.
Notwithstanding Kushner’s meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, we are told that he is not actually being investigated for anything
Investigators believe Kushner has significant information relevant to their inquiry, officials said. That does not mean they suspect him of a crime or intend to charge him…The officials said Kushner is in a different category from former Trump aides Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who are formally considered subjects of the investigation. According to the Justice Department’s U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, “A ‘subject’ of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.”
This has very much the look about it of a fishing expedition.
At this point it pays repeating that so far despite their being “formally considered subjects of the investigation” no evidence has come to light that Manafort, Page, Stone or Flynn or any of the other people spoken about in relation to the Russiagate investigation are actually suspected of having committed any crime in relation to it. Nor has any evidence come to light that they ever engaged in any collusion on behalf of the Trump campaign with Russia. Nor it seems is there any evidence that any of them actually committed any wrongdoing.
It seems that contrary to earlier reports General Flynn did report his fees from RT to the Defense Intelligence Agency, if not to the Department of Defense itself, and that he did register his lobbying work for Turkey, though under the Lobbying Disclosure Act not the Foreign Agents’ Registration Act.
That suggests that whatever offences General Flynn may have committed they were purely technical ones, which presumably explains why he still hasn’t been charged with them. As I have repeatedly said, the claim that General Flynn violated the Logan Act by taking a call in December from ambassador Kislyak is nonsense, which presumably explains why after all the fire and thunder and lurid talk of blackmail he has not so far been charged with that either.
It seems that having drawn a blank with Manafort, Page, Stone and Flynn the FBI investigators are now looking to Kushner instead. This despite the fact that Kushner is not known to have had any close links to Manafort, Page, Stone or Flynn (it’s doubtful whether he ever met Page) or to any of the other people spoken about in relation to the Russiagate investigation.
This is what happens when an investigation is launched in the absence of any evidence that any crime has been committed. The investigators spend their time searching for a crime they can then attach to a suspect they have already identified.
That this completely reverses the normal order of an investigation, in which a suspect is looked for after a crime has been detected, ought to be obvious. However nothing is obvious about this strange affair.