Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, begins his closed-door session with the Senate Intelligence Committee today, which is looking into his numerous, and previously unreported, contacts with Russian officials and oligarchs. Kushner is also scheduled to appear before House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
Prior to Monday’s meeting with the Senate committee, Kushner voluntarily released an 11-page prepared statement denying any improper contacts or collusion with the Kremlin.
While Kushner maintains in his statement that he had “hardly any” contacts with Russia or Russian representatives, he does confirm that he, in fact, attended four meetings with Russian officials, including Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, as well as two interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and another with Putin confidante Sergey Gorkov, but he also denies reports of two additional phone calls with Ambassador Kislyak during the campaign, in April and November of last year.
Kushner’s diary-like defense of his evolving role in his “father-in-law’s campaign” is conveniently laced with excuses, such as, “All of these were tasks that I had never performed on a campaign previously.”
Nevertheless, Kushner defends his ever-expanding role and his subsequent meetings with Kislyak and other Russian officials as par for the course — describing himself as the point person responsible for fielding calls from, and meeting with, interested foreign parties on behalf of the Trump campaign and transition team. Kushner insists he did not initiate any of these meetings or any of the “thousands of calls” that he participated in.
As for the meeting at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Kushner writes that he was unaware of its real purpose because he hadn’t read the full email chain, which began with talk of passing along “obviously very high level and sensitive information” about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a show of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
This time, Kushner’s excuse for taking such a meeting with a hostile foreign power with dirt on his father-in-law’s opponent is far more elaborate and direct. First, he says, he arrived late and then he says he recalls emailing an assistant early on in the meeting with Kremlin-connected lawyer Veselnitskaya, asking, “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.” Kushner further claims he considered all the talk of “adoption” a waste of his time.
Kushner also describes and defends two additional interactions with Russian Kislyak during the Trump administration’s transition, before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 — one on December 1, 2016 with Kislyak and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the president’s soon-to-be national security adviser and another on December 13, with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian President,” at Kislyak’s request. Kushner again insists that “no specific policies were discussed,” including sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration for their aggressive interference in the US presidential election.
Perhaps, Kushner’s most risible defense comes when he tries to explain his woefully incomplete filing of his SF-86 security clearance form by blaming an over eager assistant and a miscommunication. The form has been updated three times since the initial “miscommunication” that caused its allegedly premature submission.
But Kushner was also busy updating his financial disclosure form just this past Friday because his initial filing omitted dozens of additional assets, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Kushner failed to disclose his own investment in a real-estate startup with ties to Goldman Sachs and billionaire investors George Soros and Peter Thiel, first reported in The Journal back in May.
Similarly, Kushner only moved to supplement his security clearance form (three times) with information on formerly undisclosed meetings and phone calls only after they were revealed by the Washington Post, Reuters and other media.
There seems to be a pattern of omission here that’s designed to deceive and is hard to ignore.
Ultimately, Kushner summarily dismisses his numerous memory lapses and incomplete filing as a perfectly understandable slip, saying simply:
I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. 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 SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.
Kushner will answer questions from both the Senate and House committees behind closed doors but he will not be required to give his testimony under oath.
– Danielle Bizzarro