Kushner: ‘I did not collude’ with any foreign government
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner flatly denied colluding with the Russian government during the 2016 election, saying in prepared remarks released early Monday morning that he had no improper contacts with Russian officials and did not know of anyone in the Trump campaign who colluded with Moscow.
The remarks, which run 11 pages and were released just hours before Kushner met with Senate Intelligence Committee staff, describe several encounters with Russian representatives, including the now-infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a woman described as a Russian government lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton.
But in each case, Kushner downplayed the interactions. He pushed back on press reports of his dealings with Russian officials, denying that he tried to organize a “secret back channel” with the Russians and saying that he is “skeptical” two particular reported calls with the Russian ambassador during the campaign took place.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said.
Kushner will also appear before the House Intelligence panel on Tuesday. Both committees are probing Russian interference in the election.
Throughout the document, Kushner paints himself as a hard-working campaign aide sometimes operating beyond his experience level.
“My experience was in business, not politics,” Kushner wrote, describing his role in the campaign as including finance and scheduling, as well as serving as a point of contact for foreign government officials. “All of these were tasks that I had never performed on a campaign previously.”
His actions, he said, “should be viewed through the lens of a fast-paced campaign with thousands of meetings and interactions, some of which were impactful and memorable and many of which were not.”
Kushner, now a senior White House adviser, said that he is “happy to share information” with investigating bodies and has “nothing to hide.”
“The record and documents I am providing will show that I had perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition, none of which were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable,” he said.
Kushner said he did not even recall having the June 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer and the president’s oldest son until he came across documents and emails at the request of congressional investigators. The meeting, which was also attended by a handful of other people, including top campaign aide Paul Manafort and a well-known Russian-American lobbyist, has become a flashpoint in the speculation surrounding the Trump campaign’s relationship to Moscow.
Kushner attended the meeting at Trump Jr.’s request, he said, describing this as a standard courtesy between the two men.
But upon arriving late to the meeting, he said that the conversation had already turned to Russian adoptions. Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012 blocked adoptions from Russia by U.S. citizens in response to sanctions imposed on Moscow over human rights violations. Both the lawyer and the Russian-American lobbyist had been working to remove those restrictions.
Kushner said he had no idea why the subject had been raised, and that he believed the meeting would be a waste of his time.
“Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,’ ” he wrote.
Kushner said he had no followup to the meeting, there was no exchange of documents and he did not recall all of the people present.
He also pushed back on press reports that he tried to set up a back-channel line of communications with Moscow.
After Trump won the election, Kushner said the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, contacted him for a meeting. The meeting eventually occurred on Dec. 1 at Trump Tower, and was also attended by Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Kushner said he wanted Kislyak to identify the best person to start a dialogue about improving relations between Moscow and Washington, something he told investigators is a sign that the campaign had no previous contact with Russia on the matter.
“The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day,” he wrote.
During that meeting, Kislyak told Kushner that he wanted to convey information from what he called Russian “generals” that would “help inform the new administration.”
According to Kushner, Kislyak asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation with those generals. The transition office did not have that capability, and Kushner says he asked if there was “an existing communications channel” at the Russian embassy that they could use to talk to Flynn. Kislyac said no, according to Kushner, and the matter was postponed until after the inauguration.
“Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’ ” Kushner wrote. “I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period. We did not discuss sanctions.”
He also denied any meaningful relationship with Kislyak, who has become a key figure in the ongoing drama surrounding Trump’s transition and Russia.
Although he allows that he met him briefly at an April campaign event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump gave a foreign policy speech widely seen as friendly toward Russia, Kushner said he could not even remember his name the day after the election.
Kushner says that he has scoured his phone records but that he is “skeptical” that he participated in two other phone calls with Kisylak, reported by Reuters to have taken place between April 2016 and November.
After meeting with Kislyak on Dec. 1, he says that he did accept a meeting with another Russian individual, Sergey Gorkov, identified by Kislyak as someone with a direct line to Putin. He took the Dec. 13 meeting on Kislyak’s insistence, Kushner said.
Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts — a piece of art from the village where Kushner’s grandparents had come from and a bag of dirt from that village.
While Gorkov discussed his hope that relations between Russia and Washington would improve, Kushner said there was no discussion of sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama administration.
Kushner also defended the numerous edits he has been forced to make to disclosure forms filed with the government to acquire a security clearance.
He has faced scrutiny for omitting several of the encounters he described with Russian officials, omissions that if intentional would be a felony. Some lawmakers have called into question whether he should have his privileges revoked in light of those corrections.
Kushner characterized the omissions as an honest mistake made by an assistant, not an effort to hide Russian contacts. The mistakes were quickly corrected, he said.
All of his foreign contacts were initially missing from disclosure forms filed with the government, he said, not just the encounters with Russian officials.
“Over the last six months, I have made every effort to provide the FBI with whatever information is needed to investigate my background,” he wrote. “I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required.”
Kushner added that he has made it a practice not to appear in the media or “leak information in my own defense.”
“I have tried to focus on the important work at hand and serve this President and this country to the best of my abilities,” his statement said.
“Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”
—Updated at 11:03 a.m.
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