Kushner says he ‘did not collude with Russia’
Washington — White House senior adviser and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner says he did not collude with Russia.
Kushner spoke to reporters at the White House Monday after meeting with Senate investigators probing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. Kushner told reporters he wanted to be “very clear.” He said he “did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”
Kushner says he “had no improper contacts” with Russia and says his actions were entirely “proper.”
Kushner left his private meeting with Senate investigators, nearly three hours after it began. He delivered a brief statement upon his return to the White House but did not answer reporters’ questions.
Kushner was to meet Tuesday with the House intelligence committee.
Kushner denied Monday that he colluded with Russians in the course of Trump’s White House bid, declaring in a statement ahead of interviews with congressional committees that he has “nothing to hide.”
He arrived shortly before 10 a.m. on Capitol Hill.
The 11-page statement , released hours before Kushner’s closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, details four contacts with Russians during Trump’s campaign and transition. It aims to explain inconsistencies and omissions in a security clearance form that have invited public scrutiny.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said in the prepared remarks in which he also insists that none of the contacts, which include meetings at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador and a Russian lawyer, was improper.
Kushner arrived Monday morning at a Senate office building, exiting a black sport utility vehicle and greeting photographers gathered outside with a grin and a wave.
In speaking to Congress, Kushner — as both the president’s son-in-law and a trusted senior adviser during the campaign and inside the White House — becomes the first member of the president’s inner circle to face questions from congressional investigators as they probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign. He is to meet with staff on the Senate intelligence committee Monday and lawmakers on the House intelligence committee Tuesday.
Kushner’s appearances have been highly anticipated, in part because of a series of headlines in recent months about his interactions with Russians and because the reticent Kushner had until Monday not personally responded to questions about an incomplete security clearance form and his conversations with foreigners.
“I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to cooperate as I have nothing to hide,” he said in the statement.
The document provides for the first time Kushner’s own recollection of a meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. to talk about secure lines of communications and, months earlier, of a gathering with a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information to provide about Hillary Clinton.
In the document, Kushner calls the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.
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 says he hadn’t seen those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.
Kushner said in his statement that Trump Jr. invited him to the meeting. He says he arrived late and when he heard the lawyer discussing the issue of 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,” Kushner’s statement says.
Kushner also denied reports he discussed setting up a “secret back-channel” with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. But he did detail a conversation with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower in which retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then-incoming national security adviser, also attended.
During the meeting, Kushner said he and Kislyak talked about establishing a secure line for the countries to communicate about policy in Syria.
Kushner said that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure way for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his “generals,” Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used to convey the information to Flynn.
“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.
Flynn attorney Robert Kelner declined comment when asked about Kushner’s characterization of the meeting.
He also said he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak but that no specific policies were discussed.
Kushner also explained that his application form for a security clearance form was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with his assistant, who had erroneously believed the document was complete.
He said he mistakenly omitted all of his foreign contacts, not just his meetings with Russians, and has worked in the last six months with the FBI to correct the record.
In addition, Kushner described receiving a “random email” during the presidential campaign from someone claiming to have Trump’s tax returns and demanding ransom to keep the information secret.
Unlike every other major presidential candidate over the last 40 years, Trump didn’t release his tax returns during the campaign. Since taking office, he has continued to refuse.
Kushner said he interpreted the late October email as a hoax and that the email came from a person going by the name “Guccifer400.” The name is an apparent reference to Guccifer 2.0, an anonymous hacker who has claimed responsibility for breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems.
Kushner said the emailer demanded payment in Bitcoin, an online currency. Kushner says he showed the email to a Secret Service agent, who told him to ignore it.
Trump Jr. and Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was also at the June 2016 meeting, were scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. But on Friday their attorneys said they remained in negotiations with that panel. The two men are now in discussions to be privately interviewed by staff or lawmakers, though the GOP chairman of the committee, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, has said they will eventually testify in public.
The president took to Twitter on Monday to repeat his criticism of the investigations, and reiterate allegation against his former opponent and included a swipe at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was the subject of a scathing public rebuke by Trump in a New York Times interview last week. “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?” the president tweeted.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker.
April 27, 2016, Mayflower Hotel, Washington
Kushner described meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a hotel reception before Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, was to deliver a major foreign policy speech on the campaign trail.
He said Kislyak was one of four ambassadors he greeted with a handshake and pleasantries. He said he thanked the dignitaries for attending and told them that he hoped they would enjoy Trump’s speech and the ambassadors, in turn, “expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election.”
He said each interaction lasted less than a minute and he never took up any of the ambassadors on their invitations to lunch at their embassies.
June 9, 2016, Trump Tower, New York City
Though Kushner maintains that he didn’t even recall this meeting until recently reviewing his records, this gathering has caused significant headaches for the Trump White House since it was publicly disclosed earlier this month.
Kushner said he was invited by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., to a meeting at Trump Tower with a person who turned out to be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said he arrived late, heard discussion about Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children and concluded that the meeting was such a “waste of time” that he quickly looked for a way out.
“I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,” Kushner said.
Emails that Trump Jr. released show that the president’s oldest son took the meeting with the expectation that the lawyer would provide negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he hadn’t seen those emails until his lawyers recently showed them to him.
Dec. 1, 2016, Trump Tower, New York City
Kushner said this meeting involved Kislyak and the White House national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour.
In his statement, Kushner denied media reports that said he discussed with Kislyak a secret back-channel for communications.
Instead, Kushner said, Kislyak asked him if there was a secure way for him to convey to Trump administration officials information about Syria that he said was coming from his “generals.” Kushner said that given the importance of Syria, he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that Kislyak felt comfortable using.
“The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration,” Kushner said. “Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel.’”
Dec. 13, 2016, Trump Tower, New York City
Kushner said he went to a meeting with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being repeatedly asked to do so by Kislyak.
He said Gorkov introduced himself and have him two gifts: a bag of dirt from a village in Belarus where Kushner’s grandparents were from and a piece of art from the same location. He said Gorkov discussed his bank and the Russian economy and described himself as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Kushner insisted that the meeting had nothing to do with his work as a businessman. He said the men did not discuss sanctions against Russia or anything about “my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”