USA TODAY - After speaking with Senate Intelligence Committee staff members investigating Russia's interference in the presidential election, President Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner said Monday insisted he did nothing wrong and wants to get on with his White House duties.
"I did not collude with Russia and I do not know of anyone else in the campaign who did so," Kushner during a brief statement outside the White House.
After meeting for more than two hours with staff from one of several congressional panels investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians who sought to influence the election in favor of Trump, Kushner insisted he has been "fully transparent."
In a written statement issued hours earlier, Kushner said he had four contacts with Russians during the campaign and transition and that none of them were improper. He also said he attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer set up by the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., but he said he did not read emails that showed Trump Jr. accepted the meeting with the idea that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
The president's son-in-law also denied that Russians financed some of his business interests in the private sector.
Some senators were not pleased with Kushner's appearance before staff Monday, and want to come back before their full committee.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called on Kushner to testify in public under oath, and said his written statement raised more questions about his relationships with Russians. He noted that the White House senior adviser "has repeatedly concealed information about his personal finances and meetings with foreign officials. There should be no presumption that he is telling the whole truth in this statement.”
At the very least, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Va., the transcript from Kushner's meeting with staff members should be made public. "Make everything as transparent as possible," Manchin told reporters.
Shortly after Kushner left the hearing room, a protester tried to hand him a Russian flag and asked him to sign it. The senior adviser appeared to chuckle at the request.
Back at the White House, Kushner made his statement at a podium affixed with the White House seal, set up in front of the West Wing -- an unusual set-up for a staff member.
"All of my actions were proper," he said.
Kushner disclosed the information in an 11-page statement released just hours before he is due to be interviewed by a Senate committee investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and any possible collusion by Trump associates.
The interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee is behind closed doors. On Tuesday, he’ll talk privately to members of the House Intelligence Committee.
Kushner, 36, is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka. During last year's presidential campaign he was in charge of Trump's digital strategy, but he has since evolved into one of the president's closest senior aides. The statement released Monday is the first time Kushner has shed a light on his encounters with Russian officials.
While Kushner said in the statement that he had "nothing to hide," emails released earlier this month showed that Kushner took part in a meeting Trump Jr. accepted at Trump Tower at least in part with a view to obtaining information about Clinton. But Kushner said he never saw those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.
"That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time," Kushner said in the statement. "As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office." Kushner said that during the meeting he emailed his assistant to call him as an excuse to get out of the meeting because it was such a "waste of time."
In the statement, Kushner also disputed claims made by the Reuters news agency that he had two phone calls during the campaign with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Kushner said he had no recollection of those calls and had challenged Reuters to produce a source to corroborate the claims. A "comprehensive review of my land line and cell phone records from the time does not reveal those calls," he said.
Kushner acknowledged that he met Kislyak briefly at a reception in Washington, D.C., in April 2016, and then at Trump Tower in December, but denied that at the latter meeting the two men discussed setting up a secret communications back-channel between the White House and Moscow. Instead, according to Kushner, Kislyak was exploring ways for his "generals" to convey useful information about the war in Syria.
"General Flynn or I explained there were no such lines," Kushner said, referring to Trump's former national security adviser who resigned over contacts he had with Russia before Trump took office. "I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office," Kushner added.
Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, are also due to testify this week behind closed doors, before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!" Trump tweeted over the weekend. On Monday, he added: "After 1 year of investigation with Zero evidence being found, Chuck Schumer just stated that "Democrats should blame ourselves,not Russia," he said, an apparent reference to an interview the Senate minority leader did on Saturday with The Washington Post.
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