They have established that these guys are willing

Jared Kushner thinks it was all no big deal…but people who know something about Russian intelligence operations all think it was a very typical overture.

Yesterday, Kushner insisted, “I did not read or recall this e-mail exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers.” Whether or not that’s true, he attended the meeting. According to Kushner’s account of the meeting, it was uneventful. He got there late, some Russians he never heard of were discussing adoption policy, and he quickly messaged his assistant to call him so he had an excuse to bail. Longtime intelligence officials have a more jaundiced view. Michael Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, told me that he was convinced the meeting was a classic “soft approach” by Russian intelligence. He cited a recent Washington Postarticle, by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, that argued that the meeting “is in line with what intelligence analysts would expect an overture in a Russian influence operation to look like,” and that it may have been the “green light Russia was looking for to launch a more aggressive phase of intervention in the U.S. election.”

Hayden told me, “My god, this is just such traditional tradecraft.” He said that he has talked to people in the intelligence community aboutMowatt-Larssen’s theory and that “every case officer I’ve pushed on this” agreed with it. “This is how they do it.”

Hayden explained that the Russians would have learned several things from the approach. “Would they take the meeting?” he said. “So, then you get the willingness. No. 2, would they report the meeting?” Hayden suggested that Russian intelligence was sophisticated enough to know whether the Trump campaign reported the meeting to the F.B.I., which it didn’t. So, while Kushner claimed that the meeting was irrelevant, from a Russian intelligence perspective it would have been seen as a clear signal. “At the end, they have established that these guys are willing,” Hayden said, pausing. “How do I put this? They did not reject a relationship.”

And what have they been doing ever since? Gee, more of the same. Trump made “you – me – talkytalk?” gestures at Putin over dinner, and then went over and more or less sat in his lap. That’s definite non-rejection of a relationship.

Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me that one of the key questions that congressional investigators have for Kushner is why he ignored the intelligence community’s warnings about Russia. “Once it became public that they were interfering in our election, which was in June, why did you continue to have contacts with them?” Swalwell, whose committee interviewed Kushner on Tuesday morning, said. “They don’t discuss at all, like, ‘Hey, Russia is interfering in our election. Should we talk to them about that?’ ”

In fact, Kushner never raised Russia’s meddling during his two post-election meetings with Russians, according to his own accounts. Kislyak contacted Kushner on November 16th, and they met on December 1st. Once again, the Russians seemed to have a level of access to the Trump campaign that other countries, including Western allies, could only dream of. In his testimony, Kushner confirmed that at this meeting, which took place in Trump Tower, he and Kislyak and Michael Flynn, the incoming national-security adviser, who also attended, discussed using communications equipment at the Russian Embassy. Kushner said the purpose was to relay information from Russian generals about Syria.

There was no skepticism about Russia or its actions in recent years from Kushner. But Kislyak was representing a leader who, as John Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, recently noted, “assaulted one of the foundational pillars of our democracy, our electoral system, that invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, that has suppressed and repressed political opponents in Russia and has caused the deaths of many of them.”

But Kushner understands none of that, because he’s just a real estate profiteer. He doesn’t get it and he doesn’t care that he doesn’t get it, because he’s too ignorant and self-serving to care – like the whole Trump gang.

Kushner claims he was simply a naïve staffer exchanging benign pleasantries. His professed innocence about the nature of these contacts may be the most troubling part of his testimony. The Russians were running a complex—and seemingly successful—campaign to gain access to Trump’s orbit, and the President-elect’s most trusted adviser claims he was clueless about what was actually going on. Kushner’s testimony does not reveal evidence of any crimes, but it does reveal a campaign and Presidential transition that were remarkably easy targets for Russian intelligence efforts.

“The Russians clearly thought they had reasons to believe this would be a friendly audience,” Hayden said. “If you’ve never seen a major-league curveball, you shouldn’t pretend you’re a major-leaguer.”

They’re in over their heads, and they don’t care.

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