Kushner friend worked with Putin deputy on `Reconciliation’ Plan

Jared Kushner. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: A friend of Jared Kushner developed a “reconciliation plan” for the US and Russia with a Vladimir Putin deputy and gave it to President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who circulated it to other top Trump officials.

Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, received a copy of the proposal after the 2016 election and gave it to Trump’s chief strategist at the time, Stephen Bannon, and incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Special Counsel Robert Mueller said. The episode hasn’t been previously reported.

Kirill Dmitriev, the chief executive officer of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, was among several people close to Putin who sought “to make inroads” with Trump’s incoming administration following his election, Mueller said. Those efforts were encouraged at “the most senior levels of the Russian government,” Mueller wrote in his report to Attorney General William Barr.

The national security adviser for the United Arab Emirates introduced Dmitriev to Rick Gerson, the chairman of Falcon Edge Capital, in late November 2016. The two men then collaborated on a “short written reconciliation plan” for the US and Russia that Dmitriev “implied had been cleared through Putin.”

Dmitriev said in a text message to Gerson that if Russia was “approached with respect and willingness to understand our position, we can have Major Breakthroughs quickly,” Mueller reported.

‘Reconciliation’ Plan

Dmitriev assembled the plan based on conversations with Gerson in December 2016, Mueller said, and sent him the two-page document on January 16, 2017. Gerson told Mueller’s investigators that no one on Trump’s transition team asked him to work with Dmitriev on the document.

The plan had five main points, Mueller said. It proposed that the US and Russia should jointly fight terrorism, jointly engage in “anti-weapons of mass destruction efforts,” develop “win-win economic and investment initiatives,” maintain an open dialog on “issues of disagreement” and ensure “proper communication and trust by ‘key people’ from each country.”

On January 18, Gerson gave the plan to Kushner, who didn’t know who Dmitriev was. Gerson explained his significance. Kushner placed the document in a file and told Gerson he’d get it to the right people, Mueller said. He ultimately shared it with Bannon and Tillerson. Kushner told the special counsel that neither man followed up with him about the plan.

While Gerson had no formal role in Trump’s campaign or presidential transition, he helped arrange meetings between transition officials and former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and a UAE delegation led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, Mueller said.

A spokesman for Gerson said in a statement Thursday that his client interacted with Dmitriev as a private citizen and didn’t engage in business with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.

“In response to a question, Mr. Gerson presented personal ideas on humanitarian issues,” the spokesman said. “Mr. Gerson told the special counsel all that he knew about everything related to their work and all of that appears in this report.”

Seychelles Meeting

Dmitriev made other efforts to develop relationships with Trump associates. Through a close friend who worked for the UAE royal court, businessman George Nader, Dmitriev arranged a Jan. 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with Erik Prince, the founder of the private security company Blackwater Worldwide whose sister, Betsy DeVos, is the US Education Secretary.

Nader cooperated with Mueller’s investigation. Dmitriev shared his reconciliation proposal with Nader on January 19, and asked Nader to give it to Trump officials.

Dmitriev asked Gerson before his meeting with Prince whether the Blackwater founder was important and worth getting to know, Mueller reported. After the meeting, Dmitriev told Gerson that Bannon had directed Prince to meet with him. Bannon told Mueller that Prince didn’t inform him of the Seychelles meeting in advance.

Prince sent Bannon two text messages from the Seychelles after the meeting, Mueller said, but the special counsel’s investigators were unable to determine what the messages said. Neither Prince or Bannon had copies of the messages on their communications devices, the special counsel said. Prince denied deleting them, and Bannon said he didn’t know what had happened to them.

Gerson was on vacation in the Seychelles the same week as the Prince-Dmitriev meeting but didn’t participate in it, his spokesmen have previously said. Around the same time, he received an investment offer from Dmitriev, according to people familiar with the matter.

Gerson told Dmitriev he’d weigh the offer but ultimately declined. Russia’s sovereign wealth fund is under US sanctions, which limit US investments but don’t prohibit the Russian fund from putting money into US businesses. It isn’t clear what sort of investment Dmitriev sought from Gerson, or if the Russian approached other US investment firms. A spokesman for the Russian fund has previously denied that it sought to invest directly in Falcon Edge.

Gerson has known Kushner for more than a decade. Gerson’s brother, Mark Gerson, is an investor in Cadre, a real-estate investing startup co-founded by Kushner and his brother, Josh Kushner.