Cable-access host: Arrest Jared Kushner now

As I write this at around 3 p.m. ET, this guy has tweeted the link to his own video — no joke — 35 times in less than 20 hours. It’s very important that the world sees this.

Here’s the key bit from 18 U.S.C. 794. This comes from the same chapter of the federal criminal code as the statute that James Comey let Hillary slide on in mishandling classified information.

(a) Whoever, with intent or reason to believe that it is to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation, communicates, delivers, or transmits, or attempts to communicate, deliver, or transmit, to any foreign government, or to any faction or party or military or naval force within a foreign country, whether recognized or unrecognized by the United States, or to any representative, officer, agent, employee, subject, or citizen thereof, either directly or indirectly, any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, note, instrument, appliance, or information relating to the national defense, shall be punished by death or by imprisonment for any term of years or for life…

Assume WaPo’s story about Kushner wanting to use Russian diplomatic facilities to talk to Moscow is entirely true — which we shouldn’t yet, as the key question of which side suggested using a secure Russian line is momentarily in dispute. Where’s the evidence that he intended to “injure” the United States or create an “advantage” for Russia in opening this back channel? According to the Times, “The idea behind the secret communications channel, the three people said, was for Russian military officials to brief Mr. Flynn about the Syrian war and to discuss ways to cooperate there.” If you want to call that a Logan Act violation, i.e. a private citizen communicating with a foreign power over a dispute it has with the United States, okay. But no one ever gets prosecuted under the Logan Act, especially someone who’s weeks away from becoming a senior White House advisor in the new administration. An Espionage Act violation, though? How does discussing mutual cooperation with Russia in Syria necessarily constitute an injury to the U.S. or an advantage for Moscow?

And what about the fact that, according to the Times, the idea of a secret back channel was dropped once Rex Tillerson was nominated as Secretary of State? That is, not only is there no reason to believe Kushner or Flynn were looking to hurt the U.S. and or help Russia but the dopey and shady idea of using Russia’s secure line to talk shop with the Kremlin on Syria apparently was never actually implemented. How do we get from there to probable cause under the statute?

Ross Douthat wonders, as I did, why Trump critics need to reach for malfeasance as an explanation when incompetence will do:

[I]n a strategic sense I am content to have Trump’s desire for détente [with Russia] balked by leaks, probes and the resistance of his military advisers.

But his critics should also recognize that all those leaks and all that institutional resistance are also precisely the reasons a neophyte like Jared Kushner might have imagined that the bureaucracy should simply be bypassed, and his father-in-law allowed to hammer out his imagined bargain with Putin man to man…

Follow the evidence, by all means. But keep in mind that the evidence we have is still perfectly compatible with a presidential candidate and his advisers who made a foreign policy promise in the clear light of democratic debate and set out to keep it with all the wisdom, imagination and experience at their disposal — which is to say, alas, not much.

Precisely. Kushner knew that it would look suspicious if Trump approached Russia about rapprochement after all of his Moscow-friendly rhetoric during the campaign and the Kremlin’s interference via the DNC and Podesta hacks. Team Trump had a reason to keep their outreach to Putin secret even if it was intended entirely in good faith, to secure a bargain that would be advantageous to both countries. The likeliest explanation for Kushner’s behavior is that he’s an amateur who didn’t realize that his secret back channel would backfire by deepening the suspicions he was trying to avoid once it was discovered.

As for obstruction of justice, good luck convincing a jury that Kushner, a guy with no actual power over the DOJ or FBI, might be guilty simply by giving the president his advice on whether the director of the FBI should be retained. Exit question: Is there no middle ground in this administration between weirdly overwrought demands for security, like Kushner supposedly wanting to use Russia’s secure line, and weirdly casual disinterest in security, like Trump talking to world leaders on his cell phone?

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