(Bloomberg)—Jared Kushner confirmed four contacts with Russians during his father-in-law’s presidential campaign and the transition, but he described the encounters as unmemorable and denied colluding with the Russian government to help Donald Trump win.
In the most consequential meeting, Kushner said he agreed to meet with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, on Dec. 13 at the request of the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. He said that nothing of substance came from the meeting and he has “had no reason to connect” with Gorkov since.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner said in a statement prepared for an interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Kushner arrived at the Senate Hart office building shortly before 10:00 a.m. in Washington and entered the interview with his lawyer Abbe Lowell. The meeting is closed to the public, and it is not clear whether any of the committee’s members will participate or only its staff.
The Senate panel is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, including whether Trump’s campaign colluded with a Kremlin-led effort to tip the election his way. Kushner’s business dealings have also come under scrutiny. Robert Mueller, a special counsel appointed to oversee the Justice Department probe into the campaign, is examining Kushner’s efforts to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate holdings, according to a person familiar with inquiry.
Kushner, who is a White House senior adviser, prepared an 11-page statement covering his contacts with Russians during Trump’s campaign and transition and questions about the SF-86 disclosure form he submitted to obtain a security clearance. The statement describes a fast-moving campaign during which Kushner received hundreds of requests for meetings and at times couldn’t even remember the names of key officials, like the Russian ambassador. His father-in-law appointed him the campaign’s liaison for foreign officials, he said, and before the election he had contacts with people from about 15 countries.
"I am happy to share information with the investigating bodies," Kushner said in the statement. "I have shown today that I am willing to do so and will continue to cooperate as I have nothing to hide."
Kushner’s contacts with Russians have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks. He has had to amend his security clearance disclosures to account for previously unreported meetings with foreign contacts, and his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., disclosed this month that in June 2016 Kushner sat in on a meeting with a Russian lawyer and a Russian lobbyist that Trump Jr. believed would deliver potentially damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Kushner said in his statement to the Intelligence committee that he didn’t read an email Trump Jr. sent to him describing that meeting before he joined it, and his calendar entry for the meeting read only: “‘Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.”
When he realized the lawyer wanted to talk to about U.S. adoptions of Russian children he tried to get out of the room, he said, and even emailed an assistant: “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting."
There has also been speculation about Kushner’s ties to Russia after reports that he had requested to set up a communication back-channel with the Russian government during the presidential transition. Kushner acknowledged that the idea did come up at a Dec. 1 meeting after the election with Kislyak.
The Russian ambassador, Kushner said, wanted to provide information to Trump from “generals” and asked if there was a secure line in the transition office, Kushner said. Since there was no such line, Kushner asked if the Russians had a line at the embassy that Trump’s top national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, could use to communicate. Kislyak said that would not be possible, and they agreed to discuss the information once Trump was in office.
"I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’" said Kushner. "I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office."
Didn’t Discuss Sanctions
Kushner also said in his statement, released by a representative ahead of his interview:
* Sanctions on Russia did not come up during the Dec. 13 meeting with Gorkov, the head of a Russian state-owned bank and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gorkov gave Kushner a piece of art and a bag of dirt from a Belarus village his grandparents are from, Kushner said. “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,” Kushner said.
* Kushner was approached by an alleged computer hacker via email who tried to extort the campaign, threatening to release Donald Trump’s tax returns if he didn’t receive 52 bitcoins. Kushner said he reported the email to a Secret Service agent traveling with the campaign and didn’t respond to it at the agent’s advice.
* Kushner shook hands with Kislyak in April 2016 at a gathering at the Mayflower Hotel but had no substantive discussion with him, he said.
* At his Dec. 1 meeting with Kislyak, which Flynn also joined, Kushner said he told the Russian ambassador that Trump desired a “fresh start” in relations. His inquiry about setting up a private communication channel was both insignificant, he said, and evidence in his favor: “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, a line that is in bold type in the statement.
Kushner disputed a Reuters report that he had two calls with Kislyak during the campaign. After reviewing phone records available for his landline and cell phone, he and his lawyers haven’t identified any calls to any number known to be associated Kislyak, he said.
Even before the latest revelations about Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians, staff for congressional committees investigating Russian election meddling and ties between Trump’s team and the Russians have expressed an interest in talking with Kushner. He was deeply involved in the campaign and the transition before joining the White House as arguably Trump’s closest adviser.
Kushner’s interview with committee staff is voluntary, will take place out of the public eye and will not be under oath. It nevertheless may serve as a building block for the ongoing Russia investigations by the special counsel, Mueller, as well as House and Senate committees.
Meanwhile, Kushner last week filed an amended financial disclosure that included 77 items worth at least $10 million that were described as “inadvertently omitted” from a March filing. The updated filing includes details about the Kushner family’s real estate holdings. The disclosure has been revised 39 times since its initial filing on March 9.
--With assistance from Bill Allison, Caleb Melby and Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Talev in Washington at [email protected] ;Shannon Pettypiece in Washington at [email protected] To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at [email protected] Joe Sobczyk
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