WASHINGTON – After speaking with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members investigating Russia’s interference in the presidential election, President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner insisted Monday he did nothing wrong and wants to get on with his White House duties.
“Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so,” Kushner during a brief statement outside the White House.
After meeting for more than two hours with staff from one of several congressional panels investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians who sought to influence the election in favor of his father-in-law, Kushner claimed he has been “fully transparent” and said he is “eager to share any information I have with the investigating bodies.”
Kushner will face investigators in another private session on Tuesday, when members of the House Intelligence Committee will interview him as part of its inquiry into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians who sought to influence the election in favor of Trump by hacking Democrats close to candidate Hillary Clinton.
Congressional and federal investigators are seeking more details about the controversial meeting in Trump Tower, in which the president’s son-in-law, oldest son, and then-campaign chairman met with a Russian lawyer. Both Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort will appear behind closed doors before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.
In an 11-page written statement issued hours before the meeting with the Senate panel, Kushner said he had four contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition and that none of them were improper.
He also said he attended the June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya arranged by Donald Trump Jr., but he said he did not read emails that showed the president’s eldest son accepted the meeting with the idea that he would receive damaging information about Clinton that would come from the Russian government.
Kushner also denied that Russians financed some of his business interests in the private sector.
Some senators were not pleased with Kushner’s appearance before committee staff Monday, and want him to come back for formal and public testimony before the full committee.
Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on Kushner to testify in public under oath, and said his written statement raised more questions about his relationships with Russians.
The White House senior adviser “has repeatedly concealed information about his personal finances and meetings with foreign officials,” Wyden said. “There should be no presumption that he is telling the whole truth in this statement.”
At the very least, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., the transcript from Kushner’s meeting with staff members should be made public. “Make everything as transparent as possible,” Manchin told reporters.
Shortly after Kushner left the hearing room, a protester tried to hand him a Russian flag and asked him to sign it. Kushner appeared to chuckle at the request.
Back at the White House, Kushner made his statement at a podium affixed with the White House seal, placed in front of the West Wing – an unusual set-up for a staff member.
Kushner, 36, is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka. During last year’s presidential campaign he was in charge of Trump’s digital strategy, but he has since evolved into one of the president’s closest senior aides, with projects that range from Middle East peace talks to veteran affairs.
“Serving the president and the people of the United States has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime,” Kushner said during his brief White House statement.
At another point, Kushner appeared to question the need for all the Russia investigations, and echoed his father-in-law’s claim that Democrats are hyping the matter to explain away their loss of the presidential election.
“Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won,” Kushner said. “Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.”
While Kushner said in the written statement that he had “nothing to hide,” he has also distanced himself from the emails Trump Jr. released earlier this month. The emails from entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone promised Trump Jr. potentially incriminating information about the Clinton campaign from the Russian government – and Kushner says he didn’t read that part.
“That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time,” Kushner said in the statement. “As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office.”
Kushner said that during the meeting he emailed his assistant to call him as an excuse to get out of the meeting because it was such a “waste of time.”
A look at Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser
Kushner acknowledged that he met the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak briefly at a reception in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, and then at Trump Tower in December.
Kislyak has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the Trump team and Russia. Conversations and meetings with him have led to the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
Still, Kushner denied that at the latter meeting the two men was intended to set up a secret communications back-channel between the White House and Moscow.
Instead, according to Kushner, Kislyak was exploring ways for his “generals” to convey useful information about the war in Syria.
“General Flynn or I explained there were no such lines,” Kushner said. Instead, Kushner said he inquired if “they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay… I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office.”
In his statement, Kushner also said he had no recollection of phone calls with Kislyak during the campaign that were reported by Reuters.
As members of his inner circle head to Capitol Hill, Trump has been tweeting up a storm about the Russia investigations in recent days.
“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump tweeted over the weekend.