During a closed door interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee, senior White House advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner said that although he met with Russian officials four times last year, he did not collude with them to influence the outcome of the election.
Kushner’s excuse for the meetings was that he was new to politics. In a written statement before he met with Senate investigators, Kushner asserted that fielding “frantic” phone calls and emails made his recollections of some meetings “somewhat hazy.”
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” he wrote. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
After the two hour meeting, Kushner returned to the White House and met with reporters, giving them a statement while declining to take questions.
“The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” Kushner said.
According to Kushner, he first met with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in Washington in April of 2016. They shook hands. But Kushner said he has no recollection of phone calls with Kislyak between April and November 2016. Reuters had reported there were at minimum 18 phone calls, text messages and emails between Trump campaign associates and individuals linked with the Kremlin in that time period. Six of those were calls between people associated with the Trump campaign and Kislyak, including the now disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Two of Reuters’ sources identified Kushner being on at least two of those calls.
Asked about the back channel, Kushner said he inquired if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian embassy that could be used but was told by Kislyak that it was not possible.
“Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,'” Kushner said.
Kushner related that on December 13, he met with Sergei Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a state-owned bank, at the urging of Kislyak. He also said the meeting was due to Gorkov’s “direct relationship” with Putin.
According to Kushner, the sanctions imposed by President Obama and Kushner business interests were not topics of discussion during the meetings.
Regarding the meeting that included Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, Kushner characterized it as a waste of time and said, “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.'”
When queried about his repeated failures to include information pursuant to his meetings with Russian officials on his security clearance application, he maintained that the forms were submitted in error. He said that contacts with Russian officials were not the only contacts he had neglected to reveal and that other foreign contacts had also been omitted.
So, to sum up: New to politics, no collusion, no recollection, no back channel request, only met with the bank guy because Kislyak insisted, never had any money dealings with Russia, never talked about sanctions and just forgot to include meetings with Russian officials on his security clearance application. But this guy is in charge of just about everything.
It’s a good thing he wasn’t testifying under oath, or they’d be measuring him for an orange jumpsuit right about now.
George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley correctly identified Kushner’s weak excuses as making the best of a bad situation.
“At best, these meetings make Kushner and others look like chumps. They may be forced to argue they were ham-handed chumps.”
Kushner is scheduled to meet with the House intelligence panel on Tuesday.
Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Show her some love and check out her books!
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