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Kushner Insists He Did Not Collaborate With Russian Officials


President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser insists he did not collaborate with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential election.


JARED KUSHNER: Let me be very clear - I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.

MCEVERS: Jared Kushner briefly talked to reporters at the White House today. He did not take any questions. Kushner made that appearance after he met privately with staffers of the Senate intelligence committee. This morning, he released an 11-page statement providing his first public accounting of his meetings with Russian officials during the campaign and transition. NPR's Geoff Bennett has more on the day's developments.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: Jared Kushner's rare and brief public statement at the White House reiterated much of what's detailed in his release statement to the House and Senate intelligence committees. The statement is Kushner's first public accounting of what he describes as, quote, "perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives out of thousands during the campaign and transition."


KUSHNER: The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign.

BENNETT: The four interactions with Russian officials that Kushner accounts for in the statement are all known from previous published reports. The first Kushner describes as a handshake with the then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a Washington, D.C., hotel. The second, Kushner says, is that now infamous meeting in Trump Tower last year with Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer, among others. There's yet another interaction with Kislyak in December 2016. And the fourth encounter, according to Kushner's statement, is a meeting with Sergey Gorkov. He's an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of a Russian state-owned bank which has been subject to U.S. sanctions since July 2014.

Kushner insists all of the interactions are innocent. As for the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, the one Donald Trump Jr. accepted in the hope that he'd receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Kushner says he didn't fully read the email exchange from Trump Jr. Kushner says he arrived late to the meeting and found it to be, in his words, a waste of time, so much so that about 10 minutes into it he emailed his assistant looking for an excuse to leave early.

And Kushner acknowledges asking Kislyak, the former Russian ambassador, quote, "if they had an existing communication channel at his embassy to convey sensitive information about Syria," but says he did not suggest a secret back channel, as has been reported.


KUSHNER: I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses. And I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information.

BENNETT: Kirshner's public comments come at a pivotal moment as the congressional Russia investigations increasingly focus their attention on senior Trump campaign associates. Kushner met behind closed doors today with Senate intelligence committee staffers for roughly two and a half hours. No senators were present and he wasn't under oath, although legal experts point out it's still a crime to lie to Congress. Democrat Joe Manchin, who sits on the Senate intelligence committee, suggested Kushner's meeting today with committee staffers is just the beginning, not the end, of their interactions.


JOE MANCHIN: What they do is a preliminary type thing. They go through the nuts and bolts, if you will, and then we set the parameter of how we're going to go through the appearances and see if there's questions to be asked then.

BENNETT: At the White House, Kushner downplayed the Russia question and defended his father-in-law's electoral win.


KUSHNER: Donald Trump had a better message and ran a smarter campaign, and that is why he won. Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him.

BENNETT: Jared Kushner is set to meet with lawmakers on the House intelligence committee tomorrow. Geoff Bennett, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Geoff Bennett is a White House reporter for NPR. He previously covered Capitol Hill and national politics for NY1 News in New York City and more than a dozen other Time Warner-owned cable news stations across the country. Prior to that role, he was an editor with NPR's Weekend Edition. Geoff regularly guest hosts C-SPAN's Washington Journal — a live, three-hour news and public affairs program. He began his journalism career at ABC News in New York after graduating from Morehouse College.