Jared Kushner’s Russia back channel was unusual. But is it illegal?

WASHINGTON — Diplomatic back channels like the one President Trump's son-in-law set up with the Russian government are "an appropriate part of diplomacy," the White House said Tuesday as it sought to douse a growing controversy over the Trump team's contacts with the rival power.But experts say the secret talks Jared Kushner sought with Russia would be different from back channels typically used by U.S. governments in the course of international relations.For one thing, Kushner held no formal position in the government at the time he first approached Russian officials at Trump Tower last December, before Trump was sworn in. And the discussions were apparently set up to operate without the knowledge of the U.S. government.The existence of a secret back channel could raise a number of legal issues. The Logan Act, for example, prohibits citizens from conducting unauthorized diplomacy. There's also the Espionage Act, which prohibits the disclosure of classified information, and the Foreign Agent Registration Act, which prohibits anyone from acting as a secret agent of a foreign power.Whether the talks were illegal could depend on what Kushner aimed to accomplish in talks with Sergey Gorkov, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of the state-owned Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank subject to sanctions imposed by President Obama. Details of those meetings — which have become the latest focus of a sprawling FBI investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign — were reported last week by the Washington Post and The New York Times.But press secretary Sean Spicer, addressing the issue in a press briefing for the first time Tuesday, declined to elaborate on the purpose of the Kushner-Gorkov back channel or what the president knew about it."I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss," he said. And while Spicer did not deny reports of the existence of a back channel, he Continue Reading

Ivanka Trump gives birth to baby girl with husband Jared Kushner, couple’s first child

Donald Trump welcomed his third grandchild to his expanding empire Sunday when his daughter, Ivanka, gave birth to a baby girl.Ivanka Trump, 29, announced on Twitter that she and hubby, Jared Kushner, are parents for the first time.Ivana Trump delivered the child at an undisclosed hospital in the city. It was not immediately clear if The Donald attended the birth.The Celebrity Apprentice" chairman. Trump's son, Donald Jr., has two children with wife, Vanessa, and announced in March that they are expecting a third child.Harper's Bazaar magazine. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Jared Kushner has plans for $50 million penthouses at the Puck Building

Jared Kushner has plans to create ritzy penthouses at the Puck Building.New York Post says. The six units will cost from $15 million to $50 million, and range in size from 5,000 to 8,500 square feet. Four of them will have private terraces. The proposed rooftop structure must be approved by the Landmarks Commission. RELATED: Tribeca penthouse custom-built by a billionaire hits the market for $18 million The Puck Building at 295 Lafayette St. (Mariela Lombard for News) RELATED: Donald Trump Jr. celebrates Trump Plaza Residences success – with a traffic stop In November, REI has plans to open a 39,000-square-foot outdoor-gear store there, and other tenants in the mixed-use building include New York University and Thrive Capital, a venture capital firm owned by Joshua Kushner, Jared’s brother. EXPLORE: Apartments for sale/rent in SoHo Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Jared Kushner, Trump son-in-law, cleared to serve as White House adviser

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department has cleared the way for Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump, to serve as a senior adviser to the new president.Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel Koffsky, in a 14-page opinion, said that federal nepotism laws did not apply because the president is afforded "special hiring authority,'' exempting positions in the White House from the law.Koffsky, a career department official, said the law covers "only appointments in an agency,'' and that the White House is not classified as an executive agency.Earlier this month, Trump announced the appointment of the 35-year-old real estate developer, who is married to Trump's daughter, Ivanka, asserting that the 1967 anti-nepotism statute did not apply.Some ethics lawyers on Saturday said they disagree with the DOJ’s opinion and noted that it departs from earlier determinations about the nepotism law, which prohibits public officials from appointing relatives or promoting or advocating for their hire by entities they oversee. It expressly says the president is subject to the law and a son-in-law would be considered a relative under the statute.“I would look at this opinion as saying, if you want to create an argument to allow Donald Trump to hire his son in law, yeah, there’s an argument that you can create and it’s an argument that runs against what we have said previously, but we think it’s an argument you can create,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center said. “I think that’s the best you can say of this."In 1972, Justice advised President Richard Nixon’s counsel that the law bars him from appointing a relative to the “White House staff,” and in 1977, the department determined President Jimmy Carter could not appoint his wife to serve as chair of his commission on mental health. That same year, it found the president could not appoint his son as an unpaid Continue Reading

Ivanka Trump pregnant: The Donald’s daughter, husband Jared Kushner expecting first child together

Donald Trump is about to become a grandfather – for the third time.Ivanka Trump took to Twitter Friday morning to announce she and husband Jared Kushner are expecting their first child together.wrote. "Jared and I couldn't be more excited."New York Observer and budding real estate mogul, tied the knot in a lavish over-the-top ceremony in New Jersey horse country in Oct. 2009. The couple spared no expense in the event for 500 of their nearest-and-dearest friends and family, held at the Trump golf club in Bedminster.To top it all off, the Donald's oldest daughter wore a Vera Wang wedding gown designed to resemble Grace Kelly's, a $45,000 hair clip, $130,000 diamond drop earrings and a $90,000 Art Deco-inspired bracelet from her own jewelry line.In July, she told OK! magazine that she was encouraged to start a family of her own after seeing older brother Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Vanessa become parents to two children."My brother is over-the-moon, and he's an amazing father," Trump said. "And his wife is an incredible mother to their two beautiful children. It's very encouraging to see such a happy, beautiful family, and I hope to have one of my own one day." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Ivanka Trump announces engagement to Jared Kushner on Twitter

It’s official: Ivanka Trump is off the market! The 27-year-old real estate heiress announced her engagement to New York Observer owner Jared Kushner, 28, on Twitter Thursday. “I got engaged last night ... truly the happiest day of my life!!!” Trump tweeted. A rep for Kushner confirmed to Gawker that the Twitter post was real. The couple, who are both the offspring of wealthy real estate families, have been dating for two years, but split briefly early last year, reportedly because of Ivanka not being Jewish. But it seems the heiress is appeasing the Orthodox Kushners, and since the July 2008 reconciliation, has been reportedly studying to convert to Judaism under Rabbi Haskel Lookstein at Kehilath Jeshurun Synagogue on the upper East Side. While rumors circulated that Donald Trump was not happy about his daughter’s choice due to Jared’s dad Charles Kushner’s 2005 stint in jail for violations of tax and campaign-finance laws, Trump tells Us Magazine, "I'm very happy about it. They make a magnificent couple." And it seems Ivanka thinks they’re perfect together as well. "Jared and I are very similar in that we're very ambitious. That's what makes it so amazing to be in a relationship with someone who is supportive of that," Trump told New York Magazine. "I'm happy for him when he is in the office working late. I know how good that feels when you sit down and return e-mails." Hopefully they will take some time to turn off their BlackBerries and plan what will surely be an out-of-this-world wedding! Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pose for wedding photos after ceremony at Trump National Golf Club

Ivanka Trump and budding real estate mogul Jared Kushner tied the knot Sunday in an opulent over-the-top ceremony in New Jersey horse country. The millionaire kids spared no expense in the wedding shindig for 500 nearest-and dearest including Regis Philbin, who was reportedly tapped to sing at the Trump golf club in Bedminster, N.J. The Donald's oldest daughter wore a Vera Wang wedding gown designed to resemble Grace Kelly's, a $45,000 hair clip, $130,000 diamond drop earrings and a $90,000 Art Deco-inspired bracelet from her own jewelry line. The groom, who is Jewish, and Ivanka Trump, who converted to her husband's faith, said their vows beneath a massive huppah, or wedding canopy. Ivanka Trump, 27, who is also an executive at the Trump Organization, has proved to be a chip off the old self-promoting block. She recently penned a book, "The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life," and did a prenuptial wedding interview for Brides magazine. Even as the ceremony loomed, she kept her Twitter followers up to date about the big day. "Just finished a gorgeous hike. The leaves are spectacular and the sun is shining. Everything is simply perfect! I'm getting married today!" Trump tweeted, just hours before she was set to walk down the aisle. Kushner, 28, is the publisher of The New York Observer and a principal in his the real estate empire of his father, Charles Kushner. He popped the question last July after dating Trump for two years. The elder Kushner is no stranger to scandal. He was convicted of hiring a hooker to seduce his brother-in-law in an effort to prevent him from testifying in a campaign finance probe. Not to be out-tweeted, Preston Bailey, the floral designer and wedding planner who also handled Donald and Melania Trump's lavish 2005 wedding, also kept his Twitter posse in the loop. "I can safely say it's the most elegant job I have ever done thanks to her great style," he tweeted. Continue Reading

N.Y. Minute: Jared Kushner’s Ping-Pong diplomacy

"I took my dining-room table out about eight months ago and replaced it with a Ping-Pong table," youthful NY Observer publisher (and Ivanka Trump boyfriend) Jared Kushner told me Thursday. "More people come over to hang out and play Ping-Pong than they do to have dinner." Kushner was at the Puck Building (ahem, which he owns!) to support the annual Bailey House auction, which raised $800,000 to house homeless New Yorkers with HIV. Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows will join viewers at Monday night's premiere of their movie, "The Bank Job," at the Bryant Park Hotel screening room. Litigating lion Chris Seeger is the new lead counsel against Jerry Seinfeld and his writer wife, Jessica, in the defamation and plagiarism suit filed against them by rival cookbook author Missy Chase Lapine. Don't Shoot the MessengerWhich single-ish A-list actor is back to his old ways since splitting with his wife? He was seen handing off a suspicious-looking vial to a hard-partying TV thesp who is about to hit the big screen. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Trump names son-in-law Jared Kushner as White House adviser

Asserting that anti-nepotism laws do not apply to the executive branch of government, President-elect Donald Trump said Monday he is appointing son-in-law Jared Kushner as a White House senior adviser.“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” Trump said in a statement. “He has been incredibly successful, in both business and now politics."While not mentioning that he is his son-in-law, Trump described Kushner as "a widely respected businessman and real estate developer was instrumental in formulating and executing the strategy behind President-elect Trump's historic victory in November."Calling the appointment an "honor," Kushner said in a statement he is "energized by the shared passion of the President-elect and the American people."Aides said the husband of Ivanka Trump is working to wrap up his own business affairs in preparation for a move to Washington.Kushner "is spending a lot of money on lawyers and compliance lawyers and has a real interest in bringing what has been tremendous business acumen and political instincts during the campaign into the White House as a senior adviser to his father-in-law the president," incoming presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway told USA TODAY.While federal law prevents public officials from appointing relatives "to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction," Trump officials said that prohibition does not apply to presidents.Said Conway: “The president has the right to appoint who he wants if you look at the law.”Kushner will not take a salary, Trump said, but he will be a White House employee; that means he is subject to federal conflict of interest laws. Read more:Jamie Gorelick, an attorney representing Kushner, said he is "committed to complying with federal ethics laws, and we have been Continue Reading

Jared Kushner under FBI scrutiny in Russia investigation

President Trump's son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner has caught the attention of federal investigators for his contacts with Russian officials, according to a person familiar with the inquiry who was not authorized to speak on the record.At this time, Kushner is not regarded as a formal target of the probe. The FBI is investigating possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia in connection with Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election.Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, along with ex-Trump campaign associates Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Carter Page, are active subjects of the investigation.Flynn has so far refused to turn over documents related to Senate Intelligence Committee, invoking the Fifth Amendment in his rejection of a Senate subpoena. Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., did not rule the possibility that the Senate could try to hold Fylnn in contempt for his refusal.USA TODAY reported last week that a current White House official had drawn the scrutiny of federal investigators, but the individual was not identified. Read more: The story was first reported Thursday by NBC News and The Washington Post.The Post said the FBI is particularly interested in meetings Kushner held in December with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, and a Russian banker with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin named Sergey Gorkov. NBC reported it is unclear what "precisely about Kushner's activities has drawn the FBI's interest."“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry,” Jamie Gorelick, an attorney for Kushner told the Post and NBC.Flynn was present at Kushner's December meeting with Kislyak, according to the Post.Gorkov is the chairman of Vnesheconombank, which the Obama administration hit with sanctions in 2014 in response to Continue Reading