WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, called Michael Flynn in December 2016 and told him to call members of the UN Security Council in an effort to stop a vote on a resolution critical of Israeli settlement policy, according to a person who was present in the room when Flynn took the call.
Flynn then called Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States to seek his assistance, and later lied to the FBI about having done so, according to documents filed in federal court Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller that explained Flynn’s guilty plea of lying to federal agents.
The documents do not say on whose behalf Flynn contacted Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, identifying the person only as “a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.”
But a Trump transition official who was in the room where Flynn took a call regarding the upcoming UN Security Council vote said Flynn identified the caller as Kushner.
“Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” the person said.
If confirmed, that call would bring prosecutors one step closer to Kushner, who also serves as a senior adviser to Trump.
Kushner, the source said, told Flynn during the phone call that “this was a top priority for the president.”
The source says Flynn took the call at the Trump transition team’s offices in the General Services Administration headquarters in northwest Washington. After hanging up, Flynn told the entire room that they’d have to start pushing to lobby against the UN vote, saying “the president wants this done ASAP.”
At the time, the Security Council resolution was the subject of bitter debate among the Obama administration, the incoming Trump team, and Israeli officials. The resolution condemned Israeli housing construction in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank as a “flagrant violation under international law” that was “dangerously imperiling the viability” of a future peace settlement establishing a Palestinian state.
The United States traditionally had vetoed similar resolutions, but the Obama administration had said it was likely to abstain, which it ultimately did, allowing the resolution to pass.
Trump, at the prodding of Israeli officials, lobbied hard against the abstention, then denounced it after it took place.
Friday’s guilty pleas revealed for the first time how Trump transition officials solicited Russia's help to head off the UN vote and undermine the Obama administration’s policy on Middle East peace before ever setting foot in the White House.
At the time, Obama administration officials viewed the Trump team’s interventions as an egregious breach of diplomatic protocol and a shameless attempt to boost their pro-Israel bona fides despite long-standing US policy that Israel’s construction of settlements constitutes an obstacle to peace.
According to the charge sheet, Flynn, on Dec. 22, 2016, asked Kislyak to use Moscow’s status as a permanent Security Council member to delay or defeat the pending resolution, and subsequently lied about those discussions with the FBI.
It’s unclear why Flynn would have lied, but there are laws that could criminalize such behavior such as the Logan Act, a scarcely enforced law that prohibits unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments that have a dispute with the United States.
In the run-up to the vote, both Flynn and Kushner called several officials of Security Council member states in order to block or delay the resolution. Flynn personally called foreign ambassadors on the Security Council, including representatives of Uruguay and Malaysia, according to a February report by Foreign Policy.
But Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak regarding the resolution had not been previously known and could potentially be relevant to Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign staffers.
Ultimately, the episode represented the first foray by Trump’s inner circle into foreign policy deal-making, though one that fell flat on its face. The goal was to either block the resolution or delay it until Trump could enter the White House and deliver a veto. Shortly after the vote, however, Kushner did have some success in pressuring British Prime Minister Theresa May to align Britain’s policies closer to the incoming administration's. In a late December speech, May criticized then-secretary of state John Kerry’s rebuke of Israel’s settlement policies, an unusual remark and a transparent gift to the Trump team given Britain’s vote in support of the UN resolution.
Kushner has been the subject of intense scrutiny both from Mueller and congressional investigators, particularly over his omissions of contacts with foreign nationals on government-required forms.
In recent months, according to two sources close to the Kushner family, the family has been increasingly concerned about Mueller’s investigations.
Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s lawyer, did not respond to a phone call and an email requesting comment.
Aram Roston is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is D861 374F D725 4F61 39C0 08F1 4575 134B 09D9 B28D
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John Hudson is a foreign affairs reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
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