Top Trump aide grilled over Rus­sia

De­nies col­lu­sion with Moscow

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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.

PIC­TURE: AP

White House se­nior ad­viser and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner.

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