The big Jared Kushner headlines last week focused on his meeting with the Russian ambassador and his reported desire to open back-channel communications with the Kremlin. But the New York Times on Tuesday focuses on a different part of the story: Kushner's meeting with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov in December. Investigators are now trying to figure out what each man sought to gain from the meeting. Gorkov runs Vnesheconombank, or VEB, and is known to be close to Vladimir Putin. His bank, meanwhile, remains under sanctions by the US and is "deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence," per the Times. (NBC News reports that US intelligence agencies see Gorkov as a "Putin crony" and note that he attended Russia's FSB Academy, known as a "finishing school" for spies.)
"It is not clear whether Mr. Kushner saw the Russian banker as someone who could be repeatedly used as a go-between or whether the meeting with Mr. Gorkov was designed to establish a direct, secure communications line to Mr. Putin," per the Times article. The story also notes that the Trump White House has since floated the idea of lifting the US sanctions on Russia, which would be a financial boon for VEB. The White House has said that Kushner met with Gorkov for a half-hour at the request of ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and Kushner—who did not disclose his Russian meetings in his application for security clearance in January—has promised to fully cooperate with investigators about them. The Times has another piece of context: Kushner's reported attempt to set up a back-channel line with Putin "would not be illegal," though it would be "highly unusual."