Jared Kushner
Credit: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr

Peter Stone and Greg Gordon of McClatchy News suggest that the FBI’s interest in Jared Kushner goes beyond his involvement in trying to set up back channel access between the Trump administration and Russia. They note two other avenues of the investigation.

First of all, just as Ryan Lizza suggested, there is Kushner’s possible involvement in obstruction of justice.

This month, Kushner was a force behind Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, who had refused Trump’s entreaties to pledge loyalty to the president as he led the investigation and publicly confirmed that Trump associates were under scrutiny. It remains to be seen whether Kushner’s role could draw him into a debate about whether the firing and Trump’s related actions amounted to obstruction of justice.

But perhaps even more explosive is Kushner’s role in the Trump campaign.

During the campaign, Kushner helped oversee digital operations that unleashed social media barrages targeted at the local level in an attempt to shift the opinions of voters in key states, former Trump aides say. Russia similarly directed anti-Clinton or pro-Trump social media blitzes.

This is the line of inquiry that Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is zeroing in on.

Mr Warner said: “We know about the hacking, and selective leaks, but what really concerns me as a former tech guy is at least some reports – and we’ve got to get to the bottom of this – that there were upwards of a thousand internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect taking over a series of computers which are then called botnets, that can then generate news down to specific areas.

“It’s been reported to me, and we’ve got to find this out, whether they were able to affect specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, Trump versus Clinton, during the waning days of the election, but instead, ‘Clinton is sick’, or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news…

The key states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania which Mr Warner named all fell narrowly – and unexpectedly – to Donald Trump.

As Kate Brannen points out, Kushner is the one who was hailed as the genius who worked with Cambridge Analytica, a company that is principally owned by right wing financier Robert Mercer, on the campaign’s voter targeting operation. She notes this about the company:

In the United Kingdom, Cambridge Analytica has been linked to the Leave.EUcampaign, although the company denies this. The company is now threatening legal action against the Guardian , which published a series of articles that investigated the role that may have been played by Mercer and Cambridge Analytica in the campaign to leave the European Union.

A story from Paul Wood ties this all together.

“This is a three-headed operation,” said one former official, setting out the case, based on the intelligence: Firstly, hackers steal damaging emails from senior Democrats. Secondly, the stories based on this hacked information appear on Twitter and Facebook, posted by thousands of automated “bots”, then on Russia’s English-language outlets, RT and Sputnik, then right-wing US “news” sites such as Infowars and Breitbart, then Fox and the mainstream media. Thirdly, Russia downloads the online voter rolls.

The voter rolls are said to fit into this because of “microtargeting”. Using email, Facebook and Twitter, political advertising can be tailored very precisely: individual messaging for individual voters.

“You are stealing the stuff and pushing it back into the US body politic,” said the former official, “you know where to target that stuff when you’re pushing it back.”

This would take co-operation with the Trump campaign, it is claimed.

In summary, here are the lines of inquiry into Jared Kushner: (1) what was his role in attempting to set up back channel communication between Russia and the Trump administration to bypass the U.S. national security bureaucracy, (2) did he engage in obstruction of justice related to the firing of James Comey and (3) did he cooperate with Russia to micro target voters—specifically in states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania—by sharing Cambridge Analytica data with them? In other words, Kushner is up to his eyeballs in everything related to the Trump/Russia probe.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.