By Philip Rucker
WASHINGTON – Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, plans to detail four meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign and transition period - including one with a Russian lawyer set up by Donald Trump Jr. – but deny any improper contacts or collusion in testimony to Congress on Monday.
Kushner describes his interactions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and other Russian officials as typical contacts in his role as the Trump campaign’s liaison to foreign governments, according to an 11-page prepared statement he plans to submit for the record, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post.
Kushner is scheduled to testify in closed-door sessions, first before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and then before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, as part of the congressional probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts between Russia and Trump campaign officials and associates.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government orchestrated a far-reaching campaign to meddle with last year’s presidential campaign and influence the outcome in Trump’s favor.
In his testimony, which will be submitted to the congressional committees before he answers questions from lawmakers, Kushner says he has had only “limited contacts” with Russian representatives and denies any wrongdoing.
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner writes. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”
Kushner writes that his first meeting with a Russian official was in April of 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, where Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech, the execution of which Kushner says he oversaw. Kushner writes that he attended a reception to thank the event’s host, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of the National Interest, a foreign policy magazine, where Simes introduced Kushner to four ambassadors, including Kislyak.
“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,” Kushner writes.
“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”
Kushner does not name the other three ambassadors he met at the reception.
Kushner denies having had any other contact with Kislyak during the campaign, disputing a report by Reuters that he had had two phone calls with the ambassador.
“While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador,” Kushner writes.
“We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place.”
In fact, Kushner goes on to note that on Nov. 9, the day after the election, when the campaign received a congratulatory note from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kushner tried to verify it was real and could not remember Kislyak’s name. “So I sent an email asking Mr. Simes, ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’” Kushner writes.
Kushner also describes attending a June 2016 meeting organized by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., with a Russian attorney. He says it was listed on his calendar as “Meeting: Don Jr. | Jared Kushner.” He writes that he arrived at the meeting late, and when he got there the Russian lawyer was talking about a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” Kushner writes.
“Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’”
Kushner writes that he received a “random email” on Oct. 30, 2016, from a screenname “Guccifer400,” which he interpreted as “a hoax” that 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.”
Kushner says he brought the email to the attention of a U.S. Secret Service agent he was traveling with, who advised him “to ignore it and not to reply –which is what I did.”
Kushner also details two interactions with Russian officials during the transition period, before Trump was sworn in as president on Jan. 20. The first, on Dec. 1, was a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York, which retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, who would become the president’s national security adviser, also attended.
“I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” Kushner writes. “Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador 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. 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.”
The second was on Dec. 13, when Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, a banker with “a direct line to the Russian President,” at the urging of Kislyak. The meeting lasted 20-25 minutes, Kushner writes, and he presented two gifts – a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where Kushner’s grandparents were from in Belarus, and a bag of dirt from there.