“I did not collude.”
Ahead of his closed-door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday morning, Jared Kushner released an 11-page opening statement attempting to exonerate himself, writing: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.” In his first public statements detailing his contacts with Russians during the Trump campaign and into the transition, Kushner describes himself as an overworked, non-politician who was unprepared for the spotlight placed on him. After Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, Kushner became what he describes as a “point of contact for foreign government officials,” taking on responsibilities he didn’t have while on the campaign.
While the statement offers insight into 4 key meetings with Russian foreign nationals, many of the details contradict previous remarks from White House officials, including their initial, categorical claim that there was no contact between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The meeting with Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel on April 27, 2016
The first documented meeting with a Russian foreign national that Kushner remembers occurred in April of the election. Then-candidate Donald Trump gave a speech on foreign policy, described as “pathetic” and “not conservative” by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), before a crowd that included Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Sessions is reported to have had a meeting in a VIP room at the hotel with Trump and Kislyack, something Sessions has yet to firmly deny. Sessions contacts with foreign nationals eventually led to his recusal from the Russia investigation and the appointment of special prosecutor, Robert Mueller.
Kushner, however, maintains he was mainly in charge of executing the event and did not have any contact with ambassador Kislyak, aside from a handshake and what he describes as, “thank[ing] them for attending the event and [hoping] [the ambassadors] would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy.”
The meeting with the Russian lawyer in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016
The only other meeting with Russian officials during the campaign Kushner can remember is the one detailed in Donald Trump, Jr.’s recently published email exchange. The emails reveal Kushner, along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Donald Trump, Jr., attended a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. Also in attendance were a Russian lobbyist, a translator, and Rob Goldstone, the music producer who had brokered the meeting.
Kushner claims that as part of his busy position on the Trump team, he receives hundreds of emails a day and can never read them all. This is his defense for not knowing about what the meeting would entail or who he would meet. The subject line of the email, however, made the premise of the meeting clear: “Russia -Clinton -private and confidential.”
The meeting as described by Donald Trump, Jr. and Kushner himself in the statement, was about Russian adoption policy. The emails reveal, however, that Trump Jr. and company attended the meeting after being promised compromising information about their opponent, Hillary Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Even if the meeting did end up being about adoption, however, the talking point is insincere. The adoption program was halted by the Russian government in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, in which Congress imposed sanctions on certain Russian figures over human rights issues after the arrest and suspicious death of Russian tax attorney, Sergey Magnitsky, who uncovered fraud committed by the Russian government.
The second meeting with Kislyak in Trump Tower on December 1, 2016
The second meeting with ambassador Kislyak was Kushner’s first in his capacity as senior adviser to the president. The 23 minute long meeting was also attended by retired Lt. General Michael Flynn, who later went on to briefly serve as Trump’s National Security Adviser before being fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence — on the issue of campaign contacts with Russian officials.
Kushner writes in his opening statement that he took the meeting at the request of Russian Ambassador Kislyak and asked Kislyak if “he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President,” he then adds, in bolded text: “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” — a roundabout denial which acknowledges an existing relationship between the campaign and Russia that Kushner was not aware of.
This is also the meeting that according to a Washington Post report in May, Kushner discussed creating a secret back-channel with Russia, supposedly to discuss Syria and other foreign policy issues.
The meeting with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov on December 13, 2016
The second meeting Kushner attended in his capacity as a White House official was with a Russian foreign national and Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov. Kushner claims ambassador Kislyak requested he take meeting, as Gorkov is someone with a “direct line to the [Russian] President.” Kushner accepted, hoping to gain “insight into how Putin was viewing the new administration and best ways to work together,” even though the “administration” was in its infancy, only a month after the election and over a month before Trump’s inauguration.
The timing of the meeting was dubious as well. In December, Jared Kushner was still the head of Kushner Copmanies and was looking for investors to redevelop his 666 Fifth Avenue property for which he paid $1.8 billion for in 2007. Kushner denies in his statement “any notion that [he] tried to conceal this meeting or that [he] took it thinking it was in [his]capacity as a businessman is false.”
Vnesheconombank, the bank Gorkov oversees, however, told a different story. In a statement emailed to Reuters, the sanctioned espionage-linked bank said that the Putin-appointed Gorkov met “with a number of representatives of the largest banks and business establishments of the United States, including Jared Kushner, the head of Kushner Companies.”
Kushner admits to four contacts with Russians that the White House previously denied was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.