Trump son-in-law: No Russia collusion
Kushner answers questions for three hours, acknowledges four meetings with Russians
WASHINGTON» President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner answered questions from Senate investigators for hours behind closed doors Monday, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump’s victorious White House bid and insisting he had “nothing to hide.” He emerged smiling to publicly declare, “All of my actions were proper.”
Kushner, a quiet insider who generally avoids the spotlight, was the first top Trump lieutenant to be quizzed by the congressional investigators probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The wealthy developer-turned-presidential adviser spoke privately with staff members of the Senate intelligence committee and will return to talk to the House intelligence panel Tuesday.
“Let me be very clear,” Kushner said afterward in a rare public statement at the White House. “I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”
Trump watched on TV as Kushner made his appearance outside the West Wing and “thought Jared did a great job,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She said his House testimony Tuesday would show “what a hoax this entire thing is.”
Earlier Monday, Kushner released an 11-page statement that was billed as his remarks to both the Senate and House committees.
“I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”
“I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to cooperate as I have nothing to hide.” Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser
“No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign.”
In it, he acknowledged his Russian contacts during the campaign and in the following weeks, in which he served as a liaison between the transition and foreign governments. He described each contact as insignificant or routine and said the meetings, along with several others, were omitted from his security clearance form because of an aide’s error. Kushner cast himself as a political novice learning in real time to juggle “thousands of meetings and interactions” in a fastpaced campaign.
His statement was the first detailed defense from a campaign insider responding to the controversy that has all but consumed the first six months of Trump’s presidency. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia sought to tip the 2016 campaign in Trump’s favor. Congressional committees, as well as a Justice Department special counsel, are investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia in that effort and whether the president has sought to hamper the investigations.
Kushner said Monday he “will continue to cooperate as I have nothing to hide.”
He provided for the first time his recollection of a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information about Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Emails released this month show that the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. accepted the meeting with the idea that he would receive information as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign. But Kushner said he hadn’t seen those emails until he recently was shown them by his lawyers.
He called the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering. He says he arrived late and when he heard the lawyer discussing the issue of international adoptions, he texted his assistant to call him out.
“No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign. There was no follow-up to the meeting that I am aware of. I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted,” he said.
Kushner also confirmed earlier media reports that he had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities to set up secure communications between Trump adviser Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser, and Russian officials. But he disputed it was an effort to establish a “secret back channel.”
His statement describes a December meeting with Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in which Kushner and Kislyak discussed establishing a secure line for the Trump transition team and Moscow to communicate about policy in Syria.
Kushner said that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure way for him to provide information from his “generals,” Kushner suggested using facilities at the Russian Embassy.
“The ambassador said that would not be possible, and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the inauguration. Nothing else occurred,” the statement said.
Kushner said he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication.
He also acknowledged meeting with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak but said no specific policies were discussed.
To demonstrate how distanced he was from international diplomacy, Kushner said in his statement that he “could not even remember the name of the Russian ambassador” when he wanted to verify an email purporting to be an official note of congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin on the day after the election.
Senior adviser Jared Kushner walks away from the lectern after speaking to reporters outside the White House in Washington on Monday. The news briefing came after Kushner spoke with the Senate Intelligence Committee.