Trump's Son-In-Law Kushner Says 'No Improper Contacts' With Russians
RFE/RL July 24, 2017
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law said that he has not colluded with any foreign government and had "no improper contacts" with Russians during the U.S. presidential campaign or the transition period.
Jared Kushner made the remarks July 24 after meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional committees looking into interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials and Russia's alleged meddling in last year's election campaign.
"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who did so," said Kushner, who is a senior White House adviser.
"I have had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses," he told reporters outside the White House.
In a written statement released ahead of his Senate meeting, Kushner said he had "perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives" during the campaign and the transition period after Trump's victory on November 8.
In the statement, Kushner also said that a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, was a "waste of time." He said that, prior to the meeting, he had not seen e-mails suggesting that the attorney would provide information that would be damaging to Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
He also denied that he suggested a "secret back channel" for communications with Moscow -- a reference to U.S. media reports that he made such a suggestion at a meeting with the then Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, at the Trump Tower in New York in December 2016.
Kushner said that conversation was about Syria and that when Kislyak asked whether there was a secure line for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his "generals," Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used. Kushner says he never proposed an ongoing secret form of communication.
Kushner was scheduled to meet on July 25 with the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating the matter.
Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House committee, said earlier that Kushner would be questioned about his meetings with Russia's ambassador, the head of a major Russian bank, and a Russian lawyer, among other things.
"We certainly want to know about several of the meetings that have been alleged to have taken place," Schiff told CBS television's Face the Nation program July 23.
Schiff said that lawmakers "expect this is just going to be the first interview."
But Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, said he hoped the appearances would be "the last time that he has to talk about Russia."
The congressional investigations are being conducted separately from a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by the Justice Department in May to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the election and any possible collusion by Trump's team.
The U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an "influence campaign" targeting the U.S. election, with goals that included undermining trust in the U.S. electoral process, denigrating Clinton, and helping Trump.
Russia denies meddling, despite what critics say is strong evidence, and Trump denies any collusion.
The controversy has cast a shadow over Trump's presidency and hindered what he suggested during the campaign would be efforts to improve badly strained ties between Washington and Moscow.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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