WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker.
APRIL 27, 2016, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, WASHINGTON
Kushner described meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a hotel reception before Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, was to deliver a major foreign policy speech on the campaign trail.
He said Kislyak was one of four ambassadors he greeted with a handshake and pleasantries. He said he thanked the dignitaries for attending and told them that he hoped they would enjoy Trump’s speech and the ambassadors, in turn, “expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election.”
He said each interaction lasted less than a minute and he never took up any of the ambassadors on their invitations to lunch at their embassies.
JUNE 9, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Though Kushner maintains that he didn’t even recall this meeting until recently reviewing his records, this gathering has caused significant headaches for the Trump White House since it was publicly disclosed earlier this month.
Kushner said he was invited by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., to a meeting at Trump Tower with a person who turned out to be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said he arrived late, heard discussion about Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children and concluded that the meeting was such a “waste of time” that he quickly looked for a way out.
“I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote “Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,” Kushner said.
Emails that Trump Jr. released show that the president’s oldest son took the meeting with the expectation that the lawyer would provide negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he hadn’t seen those emails until his lawyers recently showed them to him.
DEC. 1, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said this meeting involved Kislyak and the White House national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour.
In his statement, Kushner denied media reports that said he discussed with Kislyak a secret back-channel for communications.
Instead, Kushner said, Kislyak asked him if there was a secure way for him to convey to Trump administration officials information about Syria that he said was coming from his “generals.” Kushner said that given the importance of Syria, he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that Kislyak felt comfortable using.
“The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration,” Kushner said. “Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel.'”
DEC. 13, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said he went to a meeting with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being repeatedly asked to do so by Kislyak.
He said Gorkov introduced himself and have him two gifts: a bag of dirt from a village in Belarus where Kushner’s grandparents were from and a piece of art from the same location. He said Gorkov discussed his bank and the Russian economy and described himself as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Kushner insisted that the meeting had nothing to do with his work as a businessman. He said the men did not discuss sanctions against Russia or anything about “my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”