LONDON (Reuters) - UBS Vice Chairman Robert Foresman became part of Robert Mueller’s Russia probe because of a series of approaches the banker made to the Trump campaign team.
According to Mueller’s report, Foresman emailed Trump’s assistant in March 2016 inviting the presidential candidate to take part in an international business forum in St Petersburg, saying he’d had “an approach” from unidentified “senior Kremlin officials” about the candidate. In the email, according to the report, Foresman asked for a meeting with Trump, or with campaign manager Corey Lewandowski or “another relevant person.” The banker wrote that he had issues other than the forum to discuss that he felt uncomfortable discussing over “unsecure email”, noting previous work he’d done in setting up an early “private channel” between Putin and former President George W. Bush.
In a later email, according to the Mueller report, Foresman asked for a meeting with either of Trump’s adult sons, Don Jr and Eric, to pass on information that should be “conveyed to [the candidate] personally or [to] someone [the candidate] absolutely trusts.” The Mueller report concluded there was no evidence to indicate that the Trump campaign knew of Foresman’s overtures about the St Petersburg forum or otherwise followed up with him before the election.
A month after the election, the Mueller report says, Foresman met with Michael Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security advisor. Foresman told Mueller that in the meeting he advised Flynn about who would be the better official channel with a direct line to Putin - Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kislyak, or Yury Ushakov, a senior Kremlin aide.
Foresman also appears in the Mueller report’s inconclusive findings about the ties between Russia and Jared Kushner. The heavily indebted president-to-be’s son-in law met with Sergei Gorkov, the head of Russian state-owned bank VEB, for discussions in December 2016. Mueller was unable to get to the bottom of what took place at those talks. The Mueller report did note that Foresman met Gorkov in Moscow just before the Russian flew to New York to meet Kushner.
In interviews with Mueller’s team, Foresman played down all those contacts.
The invitation to Trump to attend the St Petersburg business forum had come only from a low- level presidential aide, and not from the “senior Kremlin officials” he had cited in his email, Foresman told the investigators. And his boast about his earlier role setting up a private channel between Bush and Putin was no more than “an attempt to burnish his credentials,” he told the Mueller team. The report said Foresman “interacted with the transition team as he pursued a possible position in the incoming administration.”
Reporting by Catherine Belton; editing by Janet McBride