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Kushner to Tell Senators ‘I Did Not Collude’ With Russians

Statement downplays contacts, but shows Trump team’s desire for a thaw with Putin

President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that his meetings with Russians were normal and innocent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee that his meetings with Russians were normal and innocent. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated at 9:06 a.m. | Jared Kushner is set to tell the Senate Intelligence Committee he was unaware that Donald Trump Jr. took a meeting with a Russian lawyer expecting to be given Kremlin-provided dirt on Hillary Clinton.

In prepared remarks the president’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser will deliver to the panel behind closed doors later Monday, Kushner will reject the notion that he or other Trump campaign staffers had nefarious ties with Moscow during the 2016 campaign.

Kushner will not be under oath in the hearing.

“I did not collude,” Kushner will say, according to written testimony released ahead of his appearance before Senate investigators looking into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election. Kushner’s written testimony essentially describes what contacts he had with Russians during the campaign and transition period as normal, innocent and often producing few actual outcomes.

But they show a desire from Trump and his closest advisers to have a positive relationship with Russia, something Republican lawmakers continued to criticize.

A section of his prepared testimony focuses on a June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower set up by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney that the then-GOP nominee’s eldest son believed to be about obtaining assistance from Moscow to undermine Clinton’s candidacy.

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Kushner acknowledges receiving an email chain about the meeting as it was being arranged, then a separate email from Trump Jr. changing the time. But he will tell the senators that he did not read the entire email chain with a Trump family associate who helped set up the meeting. He explained that he was too busy and received too many emails per day during the campaign and subsequent transition period to read long emails or lengthy email chains.

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He claims he arrived “a little late” to the meeting and “quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting.”

Citing a review of his emails from that time, Kushner claims he emailed an assistant this message instructing that person to give him a polite reason to excuse himself: “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.”

Kushner will tell the Senate panel he has had no communication with the Russian attorney since he left the room that day. President Trump has defended his son for setting up the meeting, saying any politician would have done so; even Republican lawmakers and former lawmakers disagree, however.

In the prepared remarks, Kushner also downplays his campaign-season and transition-period contacts with then-Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

The president’s son-in-law claims he first met Kislyak in April 2016 at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel shortly before his father-in-law was set to give a major foreign policy speech. Kushner says he had taken point within the campaign for the event and arrived early to check out logistical matters, stopping by a reception to thank Dimitri Simes, publisher of The National Interest magazine, for helping with the event.

It was there he says he met Kislyak and three other ambassadors for the first time.

“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 says in his statement.

“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election,” according to the written testimony. “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 also disputes a Reuters report that he had two phone conversations with Kislyak, saying the Trump team has reviewed cell and landline phone records but was unable to pinpoint those calls.

He also will acknowledge that he did seek a direct communications channel to Russian President Vladimir Putin after Trump won the election.

Kushner recalls declining two meeting requests with Kislyak during the busy transition period that were requested by the Russian embassy. Ultimately, he agreed to have the ambassador meet with an unnamed assistant on Dec. 12 “to avoid offending the ambassador.”

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During that meeting, Kislyak pressed the assistant for Kushner to meet with a banker who could establish the Trump team’s desired direct line to Putin, Kushner will tell the panel.

Kushner met with the banker the next day, and received a piece of art from Nvgorod, a village in Belarus where his grandparents were from, and a bag of dirt from the same village. He contends he made no effort to conceal the meeting since he had his assistant formally log the gifts as part of the Trump transition office.

He recalls discussing U.S.-Russia relations under the Obama administration, with he and Gorkov both expressing a desire for a thawing under the incoming Trump administration.

“There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration,” Kushner says in the statement. “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.”

The 11-page testimony concludes with a section in all boldface type that amounts to a blanket denial of any wrongdoing during the campaign or transition periods.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” according to Kushner. “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 [security clearance] form, above and beyond what is required.”

On Sunday, his father-in-law was back on Twitter referring to the entire Russia matter and the various congressional and federal investigations of it a “witch hunt.”

And on Monday morning, Trump again used the social media site to question the House and Senate Intelligence committees and even his hand-picked Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for their handling of various investigations. 

The president asked rhetorically why those panels and “our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?”

(Trump did not point out one reason Sessions might be described that way is because of his own criticisms last week during a media interview in which he said he would not have nominated Sessions had he been upfront about his intention to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia probe.)

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