Jared Kushner has given his first public account of four meetings he had with Russian officials during President Trump’s 2016 election campaign and transition. In an 11-page statement given to the Senate and House intelligence committees, the president’s son-in-law denies any collusion.
Part of Kushner’s statement addresses the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer organized by his brother-in-law Donald Trump Jr. In it, Kushner says the meeting was such “a waste of our time” that he emailed an assistant just 10 minutes after arriving and asked “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.”
The statement was released before Kushner testifies at closed-door sessions in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee (Monday) and the House Intelligence Committee (Tuesday). “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” the special adviser said. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Very interesting turn of phrase in Kushner's statement. Reads like he's acknowledging a relationship and just saying he didn't know of it. pic.twitter.com/4e2L54Nciw
— Benjamin Wittes (@benjaminwittes) July 24, 2017
Kushner describes his contact with Russians during the campaign as typical of someone acting as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments. The president’s son-in-law has come under scrutiny as a result of failing to initially disclose contact with Russian figures when applying for security clearance. In his statement he puts this down to “miscommunication” and a misunderstanding by an assistant.
Kushner’s first contact with a Russian official was in April 2016, at a reception after Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech in Washington. There he met Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak for “a minute,” along with other ambassadors who are not named. Kushner denies any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a Reuters report that he spoke with the ambassador twice more on the phone.
“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Kushner writes. “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 skeptical these calls took place.”
The only other contact with Russians during the campaign, according to Kushner’s statement, was the June 2016 meeting organixed by Trump Jr. Kushner says he was 10 minutes late to the meeting, and arrived as the lawyer was talking about the ban on U.S. adoption of Russian children. “I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well spent at this meeting,” Kushner writes.
During the transition period,on December 1, Kushner met again with Kislyak, a meeting also attended by Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. “I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner said, adding that he sought the name of the right person with whom to start such a dialogue. “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”
The final interaction was on Dec. 13 with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian president,” whom Kislyak urged Kushner to meet. At the meeting, Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts related to Nvgorod, the village where Kushner’s grandparents were from in Belarus — a piece of art and a bag of dirt.
Kushner also revealed that he received a “random email” from someone named “Guccifer400,” which he describes as “an extortion attempt” and who “threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information.” Guccifer was the name used by a hacker claiming to be the person who hacked the Democratic National Committee computer network and subsequently leaked emails to WikiLeaks. Kushner said he ignored the email on the advice of a U.S. Secret Service agent.
Kushner concludes his statement optimistically, saying: “Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”