KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
We learned today that Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser, will be questioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee is looking into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and possible ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. NPR's Brian Naylor is with us now to get us up to date. Hey there, Brian.
BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi.
MCEVERS: What do we know about Jared Kushner's ties to Russia?
NAYLOR: Well, so, Kelly, we know that Kushner had a meeting with the Russian ambassador back in December during the transition at Trump Tower. We didn't know until The New York Times reported this morning that Kushner also met with the head of a Russian bank at the ambassador's request. This bank incidentally has been under U.S. economic sanctions since the Russian takeover of Crimea. The ambassador also had another meeting with one of Kushner's subordinates.
MCEVERS: What is the White House saying about this?
NAYLOR: Well, so they're saying that, you know, having these meetings was just part of Kushner's job during the transition, that he was the liaison between the Trump transition and foreign governments. Here's White House spokesman Sean Spicer during today's briefing.
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SEAN SPICER: Throughout the campaign and the transition, Jared served as the official primary point of contact with foreign governments and officials until we had State Department officials up. Once we assumed...
UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: At the president-elect's request?
SPICER: That's correct. And so given this role, he volunteered to speak with chairman Burr's committee but has not received any confirmation regarding a time for a meeting or anything.
NAYLOR: Spicer said the meeting hasn't been scheduled. And we don't know whether it will be in an open session or not.
MCEVERS: Where is this all going?
NAYLOR: Well, so it's moving on a couple of different fronts. On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee - Senator Burr's committee - will hold its first open hearing on the issue. There will be some cybersecurity experts and a former NSA - National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander will testify. There's also the FBI which is investigating whether there were ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
NAYLOR: And then over on the House side, the House Intelligence Committee's holding its own inquiry and has said it'll be interviewing former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and campaign adviser Roger Stone.
MCEVERS: And speaking of the House Intelligence Committee, the chairman, Devin Nunes, issued an interesting statement today. Tell us about that.
NAYLOR: Well, yeah. So you may recall last week that Mr. Nunes held a news conference in which he said he'd found out that U.S. intelligence agencies had inadvertently collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.
NAYLOR: Now, this was taken by President Trump as a vindication of his tweet that his predecessor, President Obama, had wiretapped his phones. No one was quite sure where Nunes got this from. And Democrats were upset because he hadn't shared it with them. But then he did brief the president. So today, a spokesman says Nunes got it from an unnamed source on the White House grounds. So most of - people are taking this to believe that he was briefed or saw records at the National Security Council next to the White House.
And of course this doesn't mean that the Trump officials were part of an investigation, that presumably the U.S. was listening in on the conversations of foreign officials and the Trump official's conversations were swept up in this. But it does raise questions about whether Nunes can conduct an independent investigation, which Democrats say he can't and that there should be an independent investigation.
MCEVERS: So it sounds like there is a lot of smoke here. But is there any fire? Is there evidence of collusion between Trump advisers and Russia at this point?
NAYLOR: Well, Kelly, that's the big question. And that's what all the investigations are about. There is a lot of smoke. We haven't seen any fire yet. But we do see more smoke every day. You know, the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had to step down after questions were raised about his meetings with the Russian ambassador and that he didn't disclose them to Vice President Pence.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from the investigation because he had meetings with a Russian ambassador and now Kushner, who is the closest person to the president who's been caught up in this. And it's another distraction for the president on the heels of, you know, his big failure last Friday to get that health care bill that he had pushed for.
MCEVERS: NPR's Brian Naylor. Thank you.
NAYLOR: Thanks, Kelly.
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