Kush­ner says met Rus­sians four times, de­nies col­lu­sion

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Se­nior White House ad­viser Jared Kush­ner said yes­ter­day he had con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials four times dur­ing his fa­ther-in-law Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign but de­nied any col­lu­sion, hours be­fore fac­ing grilling by sen­a­tors as part of the probe into al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion. In a state­ment he will sub­mit to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Kush­ner de­scribed con­tacts dur­ing last year’s cam­paign with Rus­sian Am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak and other Rus­sians as rou­tine.

The sprawl­ing probe has plagued the White House since the pres­i­dent took of­fice, with many in­flu­en­tial mem­bers of Trump’s team hav­ing failed to re­port their con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials. “I did not col­lude, nor know of any­one else in the cam­paign who col­luded, with any for­eign govern­ment,” Kush­ner said in the pre­pared re­marks. “I had no im­proper con­tacts. I have not re­lied on Rus­sian funds to fi­nance my busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties in the pri­vate sec­tor,” Kush­ner said in the 11-page state­ment.

The state­ment was the first time the ret­i­cent Kush­ner - a key fig­ure of Trump’s in­ner cir­cle who is mar­ried to the pres­i­dent’s el­dest daugh­ter Ivanka - pub­licly ex­plained his con­tacts with Rus­sian of­fi­cials. “I am not a per­son who has sought the spot­light,” he said. “Be­cause there has been a great deal of con­jec­ture, spec­u­la­tion, and in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about me, I am grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to set the record straight.” Kush­ner was tes­ti­fy­ing in a closed-door meet­ing be­fore the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee yes­ter­day. He is sched­uled to ap­pear be­fore the House panel to­day.

A ‘waste of time’

The 36-year-old, work­ing in his first po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion, will be asked about meet­ings with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, the head of a ma­jor Rus­sian bank and a Rus­sian lawyer - the lat­ter along with Trump’s son Don­ald Jr. In his state­ment Kush­ner said the June 2016 meet­ing with Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya - which Don­ald Jr had taken hop­ing to get dirt on his fa­ther’s ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton - was a “waste of time” He ac­knowl­edged a brief meet­ing with Kislyak in April 2016, and another dur­ing his fa­ther-in-law’s tran­si­tion - a meet­ing also at­tended by Michael Flynn, who be­came Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor but was quickly ousted over his con­tacts with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador.

“I stated our de­sire for a fresh start in re­la­tions,” Kush­ner said of the meet­ing, say­ing he asked Kislyak who had di­rect lines to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and was open for di­a­logue. “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,” Kush­ner said. The se­nior ad­vi­sor em­pha­sized that he “did not sug­gest an on-go­ing se­cret form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion for then or for when the ad­min­is­tra­tion took of­fice.”

Kush­ner said Kislyak rec­om­mended meet­ing with banker Sergey Gorkov - “some­one with a di­rect line to the Rus­sian Pres­i­dent who could give in­sight into how Putin was view­ing the new ad­min­is­tra­tion and best ways to work to­gether,” the state­ment said. Trump’s son-in-law said Gorkov ex­pressed hope for im­proved US-Rus­sian re­la­tions but that no spe­cific po­lices were dis­cussed.

Fresh sanc­tions

Kush­ner said there was no men­tion of sanc­tions in his talks with both Kislyak and Gorkov. The topic has made re­cent head­lines as Con­gress pre­pares to ap­prove fresh puni­tive mea­sures against Moscow. The Se­nate over­whelm­ingly passed new tough mea­sures in mid-June, and af­ter reach­ing an agree­ment the House is set to vote Tues­day on a bill tar­get­ing Rus­sia over the sus­pected cam­paign med­dling as well as its an­nex­a­tion of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. The Krem­lin has warned such sanc­tions would be “counter-pro­duc­tive and harm­ful to the in­ter­ests of both coun­tries”.

Spe­cial coun­sel and for­mer FBI direc­tor Robert Mueller is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion. The House and Se­nate, how­ever, have or­ga­nized sep­a­rate probes. Don­ald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign direc­tor, are cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee about when they will ap­pear to give their ver­sion of events.

WASH­ING­TON: White House se­nior ad­viser Jared Kush­ner (cen­ter) ac­com­pa­nied by his at­tor­ney Abbe Low­ell (right) ar­rives on Capi­tol Hill yes­ter­day to meet be­hind closed doors be­fore the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

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