White House senior adviser Jared Kushner gave an account of his meeting with Kremlin-aligned lawyers during the 2016 presidential election for the first time Monday, telling a congressional panel that the meeting was so unproductive, he asked an aide to bail him out.
The Associated Press obtained an 11-page written statement Kushner submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own probe of Russian interference in last year’s election.
In the statement, Kushner said a June 2016 meeting between Trump aides (including Donald Trump Jr.) and several Russia lawyers and businessmen purporting to represent the Russian government yielded no useful information. He said it was immediately evident the meeting would not be useful, prompting him to email an aide requesting that they create an excuse from him to leave the meeting.
“[I]n looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work,” Kushner said in the statement, “I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’”
He elsewhere claimed that he asked an associate the name of Russian ambassador to the U.S. in an email the day after the election. His team says the inquiry is a testament to his narrow scope of knowledge about Russian activity in the U.S.
Kushner met with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, once during the campaign and again during the transition. In his statement, Kushner says he first encountered the ambassador in April 2016 at a Trump event in Washington’s Mayflower Hotel. Their interaction, he says, was brief, pro forma, and did not result in an ongoing relationship.
He met Kislyak again during the transition for approximately 20 minutes to discuss the ongoing civil war in Syria. According to his account, the ambassador said Russian officials hoped to relay sensitive information about the Syria crisis over a secure line. However, no call took place, and Kushner declined further overtures from Kislyak’s office.
As a general matter, he outright denied any coordinated effort with a foreign government to influence the election, and asserted he did not have substantial financial or commercial ties to Russian interest while in the private sector.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government. I had no improper contacts,” he said. “I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Kushner will answer questions before the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday, followed by an appearance before the House Select Committee on Intelligence Tuesday. Both sessions will take place behind closed doors.