By MATT APUZZO and MAGGIE HABERMAN
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, described himself to Senate investigators on Monday as a political and foreign policy neophyte who met with Russians as part of a hectic and unconventional presidential campaign, not as part of a plot to steer the election.
“All of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” Kushner told reporters on the White House grounds after two hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. “I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did.”
Hours before he traveled to Capitol Hill for his session with the investigators, Kushner, a senior White House adviser, released a lengthy written statement explaining the purpose of a number of contacts with Russians last year – meetings that have thrust him into the middle of a controversy that has engulfed the early months of the Trump administration.
The decision to release the statement, and to appear voluntarily before Congress, is a clear strategy to try to navigate a political storm. His meetings with a Russian ambassador, lawyer, and banker have prompted questions about his honesty, and calls from Democrats to deny him access to classified information. By being the first member of Trump’s campaign inner circle to speak to congressional investigators, he was able to shape the narrative with his version of a still murky chain of events.
But Monday’s moves were not without legal risk. Though he was not under oath when he spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee, lying to Congress is a federal crime. His public statement was frequently unequivocal, leaving him little room for maneuver if new evidence emerges to contradict his story.
The Justice Department and congressional committees are investigating whether anyone around Trump conspired with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election, and whether Trump tried to impede the investigation.
During his public statement Monday, Kusher said Trump won the election because he had a better message and ran a smarter campaign than Hillary Clinton, not because he had any help from Russia.
“Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him,” Kushner said. He took no questions from reporters.
Kushner is scheduled to speak on Tuesday with House investigators, again in private.