Jared Kushner denies seeking secret back channel to Russia
‘I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did’
US president Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, emerged Monday from a private, two-hour-long meeting with congressional investigators and said his meetings last year with Russians were not part of Moscow’s campaign to disrupt the presidential election.
“All of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” Mr Kushner said on the White House grounds. “I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did.”
He said Mr Trump won the election because he had a better message and ran a smarter campaign than Hillary Clinton, not because he had help from Russia. “Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him,” Kushner said in brief remarks. He took no questions from reporters.
Earlier Mr Kushner denied he tried to set up a secret back channel with Russia. In written testimony issued ahead of a closed-door meeting with Congress on Monday, Mr Kushner, who is a senior adviser to the president, said he had “perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives” during last year’s presidential campaign.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Mr Kushner said in a written statement released on Monday morning.
“I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector,” he said.
Mr Kushner’s alleged contacts with Russia have been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent months. The New York Times reported in March that Mr Kushner, a real estate and media businessman before joining the White House, met Sergey N Gorkov, a Russian banker, in December in New York, a meeting he had not disclosed.
Mr Kushner was also at a contentious meeting in June last year in Trump Tower which was attended by eight people, including Donald Trump Jnr and Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chief. As senior adviser to the president, Mr Kushner is the only person at that meeting who is now working at the White House.
Of potentially most concern is a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December during which, the Washington Post reported earlier this year, Mr Kushner asked about the possibility of using communication channels at the embassy.
In his written statement, Mr Kushner says that that meeting was about policy in Syria, and that he never sought ongoing secret communications.
“I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to [former national security adviser] General [Mike] Flynn,” Mr Kushner said.
“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. 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,” he said.
Mr Kushner’s appearance at the Senate intelligence committee on Monday takes place two days before Donald Trump Jnr and Paul Manafort are to be questioned by the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday in a closed-door session.
The US president has refreshed his legal team in recent weeks as the Russia investigation, led by special counsel Robert Mueller, gathers place. He has sidelined his longtime personal lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, with prominent Washington defence lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb moving into senior positions.
Mr Mueller, a former FBI director, was appointed by deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein to lead the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign team and Russia.
Last month, emails emerged showing that Donald Trump Jnr agreed to meet a Russian lawyer at a meeting in Trump Tower last June are being offered damaging information about his father’s presidential rival, Hillary Clinton.
Additional reporting New York Times