In a statement submitted to Congress ahead of closed-door sessions with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees this week, Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, said that he had four encounters with Russian officials during the campaign and transition but did not collude with Russia.
“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,” Kushner said in the statement obtained by several news outlets. “I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required.”
Kushner has come under intense scrutiny in the Russia probes, since he played a big role in the Trump campaign and met with Russian officials several times. It has been widely reported that Kushner met with Russian officials during the campaign, though he has done little to publicly acknowledge those meetings so far.
It has also been reported that federal investigators are looking at Kushner’s business dealings and that congressional committees are looking at whether he sought Russian financing for real estate projects. In his statement to the committees, Kushner denied seeking Russian financing.
Kushner also stressed in his statement that he was inexperienced in the world of politics and had been overwhelmed with emails and foreign officials contacting him as a representative of the Trump campaign.
He said that his first encounter with a Russian official was during an April 16, 2016 speech by Trump at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., which was attended by Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak. Kushner said that he was introduced to Kislyak and three other ambassadors. He said that each exchange with an ambassador went on for less than a minute.
“With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy. The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election,” Kushner said.
Kushner said that he does “not recall” any phone calls with Kislyak, responding to a Reuters report that he had two calls with the ambassador during the campaign.
He did acknowledge that he met with Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, as was disclosed by Trump Jr. earlier this month. Kushner said that he did not read the full email exchange forwarded to him by Trump Jr. that revealed that the meeting was pitched as an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign.
Kushner said he arrived at that meeting late, and by that time the discussion had already turned to adoption. He said he left the meeting early because he felt it was a waste of time. Kushner claimed that there was no document exchanged at the meeting, no follow-up after, and said that he did not recall how many people attended the meeting.
He also listed two meetings during the Trump transition period, when Kushner said he was flooded with requests from foreign officials.
“During this period, I recall having over fifty contacts with people from over fifteen countries. Two of those meetings were with Russians, neither of which I solicited,” he said in the statement.
The first was a December meeting with Kislyak, which has been previously reported.
“During the meeting, after pleasantries were exchanged, as I had done in many of the meetings I had and would have with foreign officials, I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner said of that meeting, adding that Kislyak wanted to discuss policy in Syria.
Kushner addressed a report that he suggested setting up a covert communications channel with Russia at this meeting with Kislyak.
He said that Kislyak asked him if there was a “secure line in the transition office” so he could send the transition team information regarding Syria. Kusher said that he explained there was no secure line and he asked if there was an “existing communications channel” at the Russian embassy and denied that he tried to set up a “secret back channel.”
“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 General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. Nothing else occurred,” Kushner said in the statement. “I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel.’ I did not suggest an on-going 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. We did not discuss sanctions.”
Finally, Kushner said that his assistant met with Kislyak later in December, and that Kislyak requested that Kushner meet with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian bank.
“I agreed to meet Mr. Gorkov because the Ambassador has been so insistent, said he had a direct relationship with the President, and because Mr. Gorkov was only in New York for a couple days,” Kushner said.
Kushner said that Gorkov brought him gifts and that the banker expressed unhappiness with President Barack Obama’s policy toward Russia.
“There were no specific policies discussed. We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. 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,” he said of the meeting.
Kushner also revealed that he received an email from “Guccifer400” during the campaign, which he said he ignored.
“This email, which I interpreted as a hoax, was an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump’s tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information. I brought the email to the attention of a U.S. Secret Service agent on the plane we were all travelling on and asked what he thought. He advised me to ignore it and not to reply — which is what I did. The sender never contacted me again,” Kushner said.
The White House aide also addressed updates to his SF-86 application for a security clearance. He said the form “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication” and did not include any contacts at the time.
“It has been reported that my submission omitted only contacts with Russians. That is not the case. In the accidental early submission of the form, all foreign contacts were omitted,” he said.