Top Trump aide grilled over Russia
Denies collusion with Moscow
JARED Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and sonin-law, yesterday detailed four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period including one with a Russian lawyer set up by Donald Trump jr but denied any improper contacts or collusion in testimony he prepared for Congress.
Kushner described his interactions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, in an 11-page prepared statement he planned to submit for the record.
Kushner was scheduled to testify in closed-door sessions, first before the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday and then before the House Intelligence Committee today.
These form part of the congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and associates.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government orchestrated a far-reaching campaign to meddle in last year’s presidential campaign and influence the outcome in Trump’s favour.
In his testimony, submitted to the congressional committees before he answered questions from lawmakers, Kushner said he had had only “limited contacts” with Russian representatives and denied any wrongdoing.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner wrote. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Kushner noted that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner said he oversaw. Kushner wrote that he had attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of The National Interest, a foreign policy magazine, where Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors, including Kislyak.
“With all the ambassadors, including Mr Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” he noted.
“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”
Kushner did not name the other three ambassadors he met at the reception.
He denied having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had had two phone calls with the ambassador.
“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian ambassador,” Kushner wrote. “We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with ambassador Kislyak and I am highly sceptical these calls took place.”
In fact, Kushner went on to note that on November 9, the day after the election, when the campaign received a congratulatory note from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kushner tried to verify it was real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an e-mail asking Mr Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’” Kushner wrote.
Kushner also described attending a June 2016 meeting organised by Donald Trump jr, with a Russian attorney who talked about a ban on US adoptions of Russian children.
White House senior adviser and US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.