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Monday, July 24, 2017

Kushner: 'I did not collude' with any foreign government

Kushner: 'I did not collude' with any foreign government
By Rebecca Savransky - 07-24-17 07:10 AM EDT

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner on Monday flatly denied collusion with the Russian government, saying he had no improper contacts and did not know of anyone in the campaign who colluded with Russia.

Kushner offered the prepared remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he is scheduled to answer questions behind closed doors later on Monday morning.

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," said Kushner, a top adviser to Trump with a broad portfolio.

Kushner will also appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

In his remarks, Kushner took on both the June 2016 meeting he attended with a Russian lawyer promising compromising information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and his broader business interests.

"I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector," he wrote in the 11-page statement.

He said that he is "happy to share information" with investigating bodies and has "nothing to hide."

"The record and documents I am providing will show that I had perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition, none of which were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable," he said.

Kushner and another top Trump campaign aide, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, attended the June 2016 meeting at the request of Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son.

This meeting has been at the center of questions about the Trump team's ties to Russia since it was revealed, in part because of an email to Trump Jr. setting it up that described Russian support for his father's campaign.

Kushner said he did not even recall having the meeting until he came across documents and emails at the request of congressional investigators. He also said he only attended the meeting at Trump Jr.'s request, describing this as a standard courtesy between the two men.

He said he arrived at the meeting late and that the conversation had already turned to Russian adoption. In response to U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow through the Magnitsky Act, Russian President Vladimir Putin had blocked adoptions from Russia by U.S. citizens.

Kushner said he had no idea why the subject had been raised and that he believed the meeting had been a waste of his time.

"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.' "

Kushner said he had no follow-up to the meeting, there was no exchange of documents and he had no recollection of all of the people at the meeting.

After Trump won the election, Kushner said Russia's ambassador to the United States contacted him for a meeting. The meeting eventually occurred on Dec. 1 at Trump Tower and was also attended by Trump's then-national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

Kushner said he asked Ambassador Sergey Kislyak if he could identify the best person to start a dialogue about improving relations between Moscow and Washington, something he told investigators indicated that he was not aware of a discussion between Trump's team and Moscow before that date.

"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," he wrote.

Kushner also said he did not try to set up a secret channel between himself and Russia, but had sought to establish a line of communication during the transition between Flynn and Russia so that discussions about Syria and other matters could take place.

"I did not suggest a 'secret back channel,' " Kushner wrote. "I did not suggest an ongoing 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," he said.

Through the meeting with Kislyak, Kushner then met with Sergey Gorkov, an individual identified by the Russian ambassador as someone with a direct line to Putin.

Kushner said he met with Gorkov on Dec. 13 at Kislyak's insistence.

Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts - a piece of art from the village where Kushner's grandparents had come from and a bag of dirt from that village.

While Gorkov discussed his hope that relations between Russia and Washington would improve, Kushner said there was no discussion of sanctions imposed by the outgoing Obama administration.

A fourth contact Kushner mentioned in his remarks to the panel occurred during the campaign and involved a handshake greeting with Kislyak in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., following a foreign policy speech by Trump.

Kushner said he did not recall any calls between himself and Kislyak between April and November of 2016, which has been reported by Reuters.

Kushner said that all of his foreign contacts were initially missing from disclosure forms filed with the government, but he said this was quickly corrected and was not an effort to hide the Russian contacts.

Some lawmakers have called into question whether he should have his security clearance given some of these issues.

"Over the last six months, I have made every effort to provide the FBI with whatever information is needed to investigate my background," he wrote.

Kushner added that he has made it a practice not to appear in the media or "leak information in my own defense."

"I have tried to focus on the important work at hand and serve this President and this country to the best of my abilities," his statement said.

- This story was updated at 9:16 a.m.

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