25 Jul 2017

Jared Kushner: 'I did not collude' with Russia

5:44 am on 25 July 2017

Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has delcared he "did not collude" with Russian officials during the presidential election campaign last year.

Mr Kushner, now a senior White House adviser, has emerged form his closed-door appearance at a US Senate panel probing alleged Russian meddling in last year's US presidential election.

Jared Kushner walks out from the White House to make a statement after being interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington on July 24, 2017.

Jared Kushner walks out from the White House to make a statement after being interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: AFP

The committee spoke to him about about a meeting he attended a year ago between Mr Trump's eldest son and Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about their election rival, Hilary Clinton.

Mr Kushner said he had provided the senate panel, the first of two committees he will speak to this week, with all documents requested.

Earlier, he released a statement saying he had "perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives" during the 2016 campaign and did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.

Mr Kushner said he had about four meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition.

He also said his initial security clearance form had been submitted prematurely in error and had omitted all foreign contacts.

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," Mr Kushner said. "I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector."

Investigations

Mr Trump has been dogged by allegations that his campaign aides worked with Russia, which US intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in the election. Moscow has denied any interference, and the US president says his campaign did not collude with Moscow.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating the Russia matter, along with a federal criminal probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Mr Kushner arrived at the Senate meeting with prominent white-collar defence lawyer Abbe Lowell.

He is also scheduled to address a House of Representatives intelligence panel on Tuesday.

The Republican president, who has called the Russia probes politically motivated, lashed out at the investigations in a tweet on Monday.

"So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?" he added, referring to his former Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.

June 2016 meeting

Jared Kushner makes a statement from at the White House after being interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington on July 24, 2017.

Jared Kushner: 'I had no improper contacts' Photo: AFP

Mr Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., released emails this month that showed he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information from the Russian government about Mrs Clinton.

Members of both congressional committees say they want to hear about a June 2016 meeting involving Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort were also at the meeting attended by the younger Trump.

In his statement before the hearing, Mr Kushner described the encounter as a waste of time.

"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.'"

He said no part of the meeting he attended "included anything about the campaign" and he had no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is negotiating with Manafort and Trump Jr. about testifying in a public hearing.

No secret back channel

Mr Kushner will also face questions about reports he tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow, as well as other contacts with top Russian officials and business leaders.

Mr Kushner said he first met Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in Washington in April 2016 and shook hands. He said he did not recall phone calls with Mr Kislyak between April and November 2016, as reported by Reuters in May, had found no evidence of the calls in phone records and was sceptical they took place.

In a meeting with Mr Kislyak after the November election, on 1 December, Mr Kushner said he articulated a desire for the United States to make a fresh start with Russia.

"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 said.

He said the Russian ambassador asked if there was a secure line in Mr Trump's transition office to facilitate a discussion with Russian generals about Syria, and Kushner replied there was not.

Mr Kushner said he asked if the Russians had an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that could be used to transmit information to the transition team, but Mr Kislyak indicated that was not possible and they agreed to follow up after the inauguration.

"Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a 'secret back channel.' I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office," Mr Kushner said.

"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."

Kushner said he met on 13 December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, because of Kislyak's insistence and because he had a "direct relationship" with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanctions imposed by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration were not discussed nor were Mr Kushner's business activities, Mr Kushner said.

"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," Mr Kushner wrote.

Mr Kushner did not initially disclose any meetings with Russians on forms he filed to get a government security clearance. He has since revised those forms several times.

He said the forms were initially submitted prematurely in error and omitted all foreign contacts he had had, not just those with Russian officials.

- Reuters

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