Jared Kushner, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, is considering revamping his legal team as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election widens its scope, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing three people briefed on the matter.
Kushner, who is also Trump's son-in-law, came under scrutiny last month when The Washington Post reported that he proposed setting up a secret back channel of communications, using Russian facilities, between Trump and Moscow during the transition period. The Post reported that Kushner had the alleged discussions with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, who is a known Russian spy.
Although administration officials downplayed the situation and said they "would not be concerned" about a back channel, national security experts expressed alarm at the development, pointing out that while back channels are indeed normal, it was not normal to ask to use the facilities of a hostile foreign power to conduct such communications. The Post's story came soon after it reported that the FBI's Russia investigation, spearheaded by special counsel Robert Mueller, had expanded to include a senior White House official as a "person of interest."
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NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 28: Charles Kushner and Jared Kushner attend LORD & TAYLOR Launches IVANKA TRUMP's Spring 2012 Collection at Lord & Taylor on March 28, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, senior adviser to Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Rome's Fiumicino Airport on May 23, 2017. Donald Trump arrived in Rome for a high-profile meeting with Pope Francis in what was his first official trip to Europe since becoming US President. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L) and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner take part in a bilateral meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni (not seen) in Villa Taverna, the US ambassador's residence, in Rome on May 24, 2017.
After a private audience wit Pope Francis early in the morning Trump's family will fly to Brussels this afternoon for meetings with EU and NATO officials before returning to Italy for the G7 summit in Sicily on May 26-27. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Ivanka Trump, with her husband Jared Kushner and their children, depart after her father President Donald Trump formally signed his cabinet nominations into law, in the President's Room of the Senate, at the Capitol in Washington, January 20, 2017. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite - Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 1: (L-R) Josh Kushner, Charles Kushner and Jared Kushner attend The New York Observer's New Look Hosted by Jared Kushner and Joseph Meyer at Casa Lever on April 1, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - AUGUST 18: Charles Kushner (C) wades though the media with his legal team and wife to the U.S. District Courthouse August 18, 2004 in Newark, New Jersey. Kushner, a New Jersey developer and a major campaign contributors to Democrats including embattled Gov. Jim McGreevey, is expected to plead guilty to federal charges that he hired a prostitute to try to silence a witness in a federal investigation. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Frank Lautenberg, Bill Clinton, Bruce S. Schonbraun, Charles Kushner (Photo by Sylvain Gaboury/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK CITY, NY - JUNE 14: (L-R) Charles Collier, Arianna Huffington and Jared Kushner attend AMC Hosts a Special Preview and Discussion of Their Provocative New Series 'MAD MEN' at Michael's on June 14, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by JIMI CELESTE/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 16: Charles E. Garner II, Jared Kushner, Kenneth Caplan, Keith B. Gelb, Jonathan L. Mechanic and Robert G. Stuckey attend Commercial Observer Masters of Real Estate 2013 at The Metropolitan Club on October 16, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ilir Bajraktari/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 3: (L-R) Jared Kushner, Seryl Kushner and Joshua Kushner attend 2014 Library Lions Gala at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on November 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by J Grassi/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 3: (L-R) Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Seryl Kushner and Joshua Kushner attend 2014 Library Lions Gala at The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on November 3, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by J Grassi/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump (C) and White House senior advisor Jared Kushner (R) listen to the US president delivering a speech during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum, commemorating the six million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II, on May 23, 2017, in Jerusalem. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 4: (L-R) Josh Kushner, Jared Kushner, Barry Diller and Wendi Murdoch attend FOUNDERS CLUB New York & BARRY DILLER welcome TIM ARMSTRONG & JON MILLER at Roof Garden on June 4, 2008 in New York. (Photo by DAVID X PRUTTING/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 10: Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump walk off Air Force One with their children at Palm Beach International airport as they prepare to spend part of the weekend together with her father President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago resort on February 10, 2017 in West Palm Beach, Florida. President Trump is hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and are scheduled to get in a game of golf as well as discuss trade issues. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: (L-R) Josh Raffel, Jared Kushner and Matthew Hiltzik attend The New York Observer 25th Anniversary at Four Seasons Restaurant on March 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 1: (L-R) Anthony Marx, Jared Kushner, Joseph Meyer and Josh Kushner attend The New York Observer's New Look Hosted by Jared Kushner and Joseph Meyer at Casa Lever on April 1, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump, daughter of US President Donald Trump, her husband Jared Kushner, senior adviser to Trump, and their children walk off Air Force One at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida as they arrive to spend the weekend at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on February 10, 2017 with Japanese Peime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie. / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - NOVEMBER 30: (L-R) Josh Kushner, Wendi Murdoch, Dasha Zhukova and Jonathan Yeo attend the Louis Vuitton Art.sy Beachside Barbecue, hosted by Carter Cleveland, Wendi Murdoch and Dasha Zhukova at Soho Beach House Miami on November 30, 2011 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for ART.sy)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner looks on during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam in the Cabinet Room of the White House, on May 31, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: Jared Kushner, Senior Adviser to US President arrives with the delegation of President of United States of America Donald Trump and Wife Melania Trump for a meeting with Pope Francis, on May 22, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by (Photo by Vatican Pool - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - MAY 24: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner attend an audience with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace on May 24, 2017 in Vatican City, Vatican. The President Trump will return on Italy on Friday attending the Group of 7 Summit in Sicily. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: (L-R) Charles Kushner, Seryl Kushner and Jared Kushner attend Commercial Observer Presents: Wired City: The Future of The NYC Tenant at 666 5th Avenue on November 20, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Ilir Bajraktari/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner attend the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral, on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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It was after these reports emerged, The Times said, that Kushner's allies began searching for more high-profile and experienced attorneys to represent him. Kushner is currently represented by Jamie Gorelick, who is a partner at the firm WilmerHale. Mueller was also a partner at the firm, and he resigned from his position after he was chosen as special counsel in the FBI's Russia probe.
In addition to Kushner, the firm also represents the interests of Ivanka Trump and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Gorelick urged Kushner to consider choosing someone else to represent him at first, The Times reported.
As the Russia investigation continues, Kushner's allies have reportedly raised questions about the relationship between Gorelick and Mueller. And in recent days, Kushner has met with at least one high-profile trial attorney, according to people familiar with the situation. Kushner released a statement from Gorelick saying that the meetings took place in an effort to seek advice on the issue, not replace or supplement Gorelick's team.
"After the appointment of our former partner Robert Mueller as special counsel, we advised Mr. Kushner to obtain the independent advice of a lawyer with appropriate experience as to whether he should continue with us as his counsel," Gorelick's statement read.
People familiar with the matter said that Kushner's confidants were specifically scoping out courtroom litigators. Abbe D. Lowell, a prominent trial attorney who represented Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a 2005 corruption scandal and is currently representing NJ Sen. Robert Menendez against corruption charges, was reportedly one of the people contacted.
As part of a wide-ranging inquiry into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia, FBI and congressional investigators are also reportedly looking into why Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a Russian banker who is a close confidant to Russian President Vladimir Putin, in December. The meeting between Kushner and Gorkov would have taken place shortly after Kushner's alleged meeting with Kislyak.
Gorkov was tapped by Putin to head up Russia's Vnesheconombank in January 2016, and Reuters reported that the FBI is examining whether Gorkov suggested to Kushner that Russian banks could finance Trump associates' business ventures if U.S. sanctions were eased.