Philanthropist and host Haim Saban seemed to be trying to put his high-profile guest Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, at ease by addressing the “elephant in the room” at the top of their keynote conversation at the Saban Forum on Sunday. But the attempt to neutralize a sensitive subject quickly proved awkward, and highlighted how much the multiple Russia investigations underway may end up hobbling Trump’s Middle East peace push, which he has tapped Kushner to lead.Two days before the rare Kushner public appearance, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to lying to the FBI about the nature of conversations he held with former Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak in December, and agreed to cooperate in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. An FBI “statement of offense” unsealed at Flynn’s plea describes Flynn being directed by a “very senior official” in the Trump transition on Dec. 22, 2016, to contact Kislyak to ask the Russians as well as other diplomatic missions to scuttle a planned UN Security Council vote on a resolution condemning Israeli settlement building. That “very senior official” was subsequently identified in media reports to be Kushner.After introducing Kushner, Saban, the sponsor of the annual Saban Forum co-hosted by the Brookings Institution, praised Kushner’s interventions to try to derail the UN settlements resolution, which the Barack Obama administration had decided to abstain from, and urged the audience to give Kushner a round of applause. But there was only muted clapping from a few members of the audience packed into an elegant event room in Washington’s Willard Hotel, a block from the White House.
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