President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner answered senators’ questions at a closed-door session on Monday to answer questions about his contacts with Russian officials. In his written remarks, which were made public before his appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kushner denies collusion or any improper contacts with Russian representatives. In 11 pages, Kushner recounts four meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and the transition period. One of these was arranged by Donald Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer.
In his written statement, Kushner explained his exchanges with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other officials as typical for his work as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments. Kushner writes that he had “limited contacts” with Russian representatives while denying any wrongdoing. “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner writes. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
In his statement, Kushner recalls that he first met with a Russian official in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where the future-president Trump delivered a foreign policy speech. Kushner writes that the publisher of National Interest, Dimitri Simes, introduced him to four ambassadors at the reception, including Kislyak. “With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” Kushner writes.
“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.” The three other ambassadors are not named in the statement.
Despite Reuters newswire reports that he had two phone calls with the Russian ambassador during the campaign, Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign. “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.”
When the Trump campaign received Russian President Vladimir Putin’s congratulations on November 9, Kushner tried to verify it real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’ ” Kushner writes.
Also, Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. Arriving late to the meeting, he heard the Russian lawyer talk about the ban on U.S. adoptions 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. “Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’ "
Excerpt of Kushner's written statement:
"In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. 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. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as 'Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.' No one else was mentioned.
"I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions 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. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, 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.'
"I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. 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. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form."
Touching on the Russian hacking narrative, Kushner writes about a “random email” he received on Oct. 30, 2016, from “Guccifer400.” Interpreting it as “a hoax,” he concluded that it that was “an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information.” When he spoke to a Secret Service agent he was traveling with about the email, the agent advised him “to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did.”
As for other Russian contacts, Kushner detailed interactions he had with Russians during the transition period, before Trump was sworn in as president on January 20. The first was a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York, which was also attended by Michael Flynn, who would become the president’s national security adviser. “I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner writes. “Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. 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.”
Kushner recalled that Kislyak spoke about American policy regarding Syria, stating that he wanted to “convey information from what he called his ‘generals.’ ” Kislyak said that the generals could not travel to the U.S. and, “he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation.” Kushner said that both he and Flynn explained that there were no such secure lines. Kushner asked Kislyak if Russia had “an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.” Kushner writes that the ambassador said “that would not be possible;” They agreed to wait until the onset of the new administration to receive the information.
Kushner suggests in his statement that the secure line, or what The Washington Post called a “secret back channel,” would have been for just this one meeting. “ did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’ ” Kushner writes. “I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period.”
As for the second meeting during the transition, Kushner writes that he met with banker Sergey Gorkov on Dec. 13. Gorkov purportedly had a “direct line to the Russian President,” at the urging of Kislyak. Kushner declined to meet Kislyak again on Dec. 7. However, Kushner wrote that in order to avoid offending the ambassador, Kushner agreed to allow an aide to meet him.
During the Dec. 13 meeting, Kushner writes, banker Gorkov discussed the Russian economy, and expressed “disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future.” Kushner writes that “no specific policies were discussed,” including sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
Kushner also explained why he did not disclose all of his foreign government contacts on his SF-86 application for security clearance, writing that his form was “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials.” The “rough draft” of his form was submitted by his assistant, Kushner wrote, during his move to Washington with his family, because of a “miscommunication.” the initial submission, Kushner writes, did not mention “all foreign contacts” and that a supplemental submission disclosed more than 100 contacts from more than 20 countries.