(CNSNews.com) – In an 11-page statement released early Monday morning, hours before his closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, Jared Kushner said he had “limited contracts with Russian representatives” during the campaign as well as the transition.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” he said. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”
In the statement, Kushner describes in detail his contacts with Russian representatives during the campaign (“There were hardly any,” he said); and during the transition (two meetings with Russians, neither of which he solicited). His statement also explains omissions and corrections to his federal disclosure form.
Kusher’s statement is a detailed, public explanation of what he intends to tell the committee in a private interview today.
Kushner said his first contact with a Russian government official was at a Washington hotel in April 2016, when Kushner’s father-in-law Donald Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, which had been Kushner’s idea.
I arrived at the hotel early to make sure all logistics were in order. After that, I stopped into the reception to thank the host of the event, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of the bi-monthly foreign policy magazine, The National Interest, who had done a great job putting everything together. Mr. Simes and his group had created the guest list and extended the invitations for the event. He introduced me to several guests, among them four ambassadors, including Russian Ambassador Sergey 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. 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.
Kushner refuted a Reuters report that he had two phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak some time between April and November 2016.
“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador. 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. A comprehensive review of my land line and cell phone records from the time does not reveal those calls.”
Kushner said he had no ongoing relationship with Kislyak before the election: “In fact, on November 9, the day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian Ambassador.” Kushner said he had to call Mr. Simes (see above) asking, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’ when the campaign received an email purporting to be a note of congratulations from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kushner said he needed to contact Kislyak to verify that the note was really from Putin.
As for the now-famous June 2016 meeting with Russians agreed to by Donald Trump Jr., Kushner said he did not remember that meeting at all “until I was reviewing documents and emails in response to congressional requests for information.”
He described the meeting this way:
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.” Kushner said “it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested,” and Kushner said he did not know who else would be at the meeting:
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.
The transition period was even busier than the campaign, with “an incredible volume” of messages coming in from across the world, Kushner said.
“During this period, I recall having over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries. Two of those meetings were with Russians, neither of which I solicited.”
He described the two meetings:
On November 16, 2016, my assistant received a request for a meeting from the Russian Ambassador. As I mentioned before, previous to receiving this request, I could not even recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, and had to ask for the name of the individual I had seen at the Mayflower Hotel almost seven months earlier.
In addition, far from being urgent, that meeting was not set up for two weeks — on December 1. The meeting occurred in Trump Tower, where we had our transition office, and lasted twenty- thirty minutes. Lt. General Michael Flynn (Ret.), who became the President’s National Security Advisor, also attended.
During the meeting, after pleasantries were exchanged, as I had done in many of the meetings I had and would have with foreign officials, I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations. 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 said Kislyak “expressed similar sentiments about relations, and then said he especially wanted to address U.S. policy in Syria, and that he wanted to convey information from what he called his ‘generals.’
He said he wanted to provide information that would help inform the new administration. He said the generals could not easily come to the U.S. to convey this information and he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation. General Flynn or I explained that there were no such lines.
I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked 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 to General 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. I did not suggest a “secret back channel.” 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. We did not discuss sanctions.
Approximately a week later, on December 6, the Embassy asked if I could meet with the Ambassador on December 7. I declined. They then asked if I could meet on December 6; I declined again. They then asked when the earliest was that I could meet. I declined these requests because I was working on many other responsibilities for the transition. He asked if he could meet my assistant instead and, to avoid offending the Ambassador, I agreed. He did so on December 12.
My assistant reported that the Ambassador had requested that I meet with a person named Sergey Gorkov who he said was a banker and someone with a direct line to the Russian President who could give insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together. I agreed to meet Mr. Gorkov because the Ambassador has been so insistent, said he had a direct relationship with the President, and because Mr. Gorkov was only in New York for a couple days. I made room on my schedule for the meeting that occurred the next day, on December 13.
The meeting with Mr. Gorkov lasted twenty to twenty-five minutes. He introduced himself and gave me two gifts — one was a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus, and the other was a bag of dirt from that same village. (Any notion that I tried to conceal this meeting or that I took it thinking it was in my capacity as a businessman is false. In fact, I gave my assistant these gifts to formally register them with the transition office).
After that, he told me a little about his bank and made some statements about the Russian economy. He said that he was friendly with President Putin, expressed disappointment with U.S.-Russia relations under President Obama and hopes for a better relationship in the future. As I did at the meeting with Ambassador Kislyak, I expressed the same sentiments I had with other foreign officials I met. There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.
At the end of the short meeting, we thanked each other and I went on to other meetings. I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since.
To the best of my recollection, these were the only two contacts I had during the transition with persons who were or appeared to potentially be representatives of the Russian government.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is denying that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, saying in a statement ahead of congressional interviews that he has “nothing to hide.”
The 11-page statement provided to The Associated Press by a representative Monday details four contacts with Russians during Trump’s campaign and transition. Kushner plans to deliver the statement during closed-door meetings with investigators on Senate and House committees this week.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said in the statement in which he also insists none of the contacts was improper. He also denies that Russians finance any of his business in the private sector.
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 government officials 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 appearance has 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 am not a person who has sought the spotlight,” he said in his statement.
In it, he detailed a June 2016 meeting with a Russian-American lawyer and says it was 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 at Trump Tower with the idea that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton. 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 denies reports he discussed setting up a secret back-channel with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
He said he did speak with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower. But he says that conversation was about policy in Syria.
Kushner says that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure line 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. Kushner says he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication.
He also says he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak. But he says 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.
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 over the weekend to defend himself and repeat his criticism of the investigations. On Sunday, Trump tweeted: “As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!”