Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top White House advisor Jared Kushner forcefully denied colluding with Moscow to sway the 2016 election on Monday (July 24).
Kushner had spent more than two hours appearing before senators who are probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“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 said after giving testimony to a Congressional inquiry.
The normally camera-shy aide said contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a financier and a lawyer – who offered dirt on his father-in-law’s campaign rival Hillary Clinton – were above board.
“The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign.”
Kushner had also released a statement ahead of the closed door meeting with senators, rejecting allegations of collusion with Russia during his father-in-law’s election campaign.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government” the 11-page statement concluded. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
He mentioned a total of four meetings with Russians, including with Russia’s ambassador in Washington, whom he met with fleetingly in the company of other ambassadors, he said.
And he attended a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who was offering Mr Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr information damaging to his father’s rival, Mrs Hillary Clinton, without fully understanding what it was about and came to the quick conclusion it was a waste of time and contrived to get out of the meeting.
Mr Kushner also challenged a Reuters news service report that he had two calls with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak some time between April and November of 2016, saying he could not recall them, records did not show them, and he was “highly sceptical these calls took place”.
“A comprehensive review of my landline and cellphone records from the time does not reveal those calls. I had no ongoing relationship with the ambassador before the election, and had limited knowledge about him then. In fact... the day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian ambassador,” the statement said.
Mr Kushner is due to appear at a closed door session of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s alleged influence on last year’s election campaign. Mr Donald Trump Jr and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort have been asked to turn over relevant documents to the committee as well, and may be asked to testify under oath.
Mr Trump yesterday blasted the investigation into his alleged Russia ties, asking in a Twitter message, “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillary’s crimes & Russia relations?”, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In another tweet, Mr Trump wrote, “After 1 year of investigation with zero evidence being found, Chuck Schumer just stated that ‘“Democrats should blame ourselves,not Russia,’” referring to Senate Minority Leader Schumer.
US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind a hack of the Democratic Party’s database and the subsequent leak of e-mails. Late last December, former president Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation.
That Russia may have influenced the election - and allegations that there may have been active collusion with Russia by key people in his camp - has been a sore point with President Trump, who has accused his enemies of a “witch hunt”.
The allegations have so far led to the resignation of his first National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and the recusal of Mr Sessions from an FBI probe after they failed to disclose meetings with Russian contacts. Adding fuel, details emerged this month of the meeting the President’s son Donald Trump Jr had with the Russian lawyer in June 2016, apparently to hear information damaging to Mrs Clinton.
In his statement Mr Kushner who was also called to the meeting by his brother-in-law, said, “I actually e-mailed 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.”