Trump son-in-law: No Rus­sia col­lu­sion

Kush­ner an­swers ques­tions for three hours, ac­knowl­edges four meet­ings with Rus­sians

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Clare Jalonick

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.

Pablo Martinez Mon­si­vais, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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