Kushner: Russia probes 'more harmful to country' than Moscow's election interference

Kushner: Russia probes 'more harmful to country' than Moscow's election interference
© Stefani Reynolds

White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJudge delivers second blow to Trump over financial records Tillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul MORE on Tuesday asserted that the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election have been more damaging to U.S. politics than the interference efforts themselves, which he downplayed as "a couple of Facebook ads."

"Quite frankly the whole thing is just a big distraction for the country," Kushner said at the 2019 Time 100 Summit.

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"And you look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, and it’s a terrible thing," he continued. "But I think the investigations and all the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads."

"If you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country," he added.

The interview marked Kushner's first public interview since the release of a redacted version of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE's full report on his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference. The report did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.

Mueller wrote that while Russia actively sought to help Trump win the 2016 election, campaign officials were either unaware of the efforts or not fully receptive to them.

The report laid out how a Russian troll farm with links to the Kremlin, known as the Internet Research Agency, sought to sow discord among the American public on social media in favor of Trump. Facebook has said that 10 million users saw Russian ads around the 2016 election.

The Mueller report additionally detailed how Russian intelligence officers hacked both the Democratic National Committee and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE's campaign chairman John Podesta.

Kushner was involved in a number of episodes included in the report, including a summer 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who had promised damaging information on Clinton.

Kushner said Tuesday that the campaign "didn’t know that Russia was doing what they were doing," and maintained that he'd been cooperative with the special counsel's investigation and other congressional probes.

Moderator Brian Bennett noted that Obama administration officials made public around Oct. 6, 2016, the assessment that Russia was involved in influence efforts.

Kushner largely ignored the point, and instead argued that those who incorrectly predicted that Trump would lose the 2016 election chose to fixate on the "nonsense" surrounding the Russia investigation instead.

"Everything that the president's been saying, everything that I’ve been saying has now been fully authenticated," he said.