Trump son-in-law Kushner denies collusion with Russia

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By MARY CLARE JALONICK
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner is denying that President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia, saying in a statement ahead of congressional interviews that he has "nothing to hide."

The 11-page statement provided to The Associated Press by a representative Monday details four contacts with Russians during Trump's campaign and transition. Kushner plans to deliver the statement during closed-door meetings with investigators on Senate and House committees this week.

"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," Kushner said in the statement in which he also insists none of the contacts was improper. He also denies that Russians finance any of his business in the private sector.

In speaking to Congress, Kushner - as both the president's son-in-law and a trusted senior adviser during the campaign and inside the White House - becomes the first member of the president's inner circle to face questions from government officials as they probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign.

He is to meet with staff on the Senate intelligence committee Monday and lawmakers on the House intelligence committee Tuesday.

Kushner's appearance has been highly anticipated, in part because of a series of headlines in recent months about his interactions with Russians and because the reticent Kushner had until Monday not personally responded to questions about an incomplete security clearance form and his conversations with foreigners.

"I am not a person who has sought the spotlight," he said in his statement.

In it, he detailed a June 2016 meeting with a Russian-American lawyer and says it was such a "waste of time" that he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.

Emails released this month show that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., accepted the meeting at Trump Tower with the idea that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton. But Kushner says he hadn't seen those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.

Kushner said in his statement that Trump Jr. invited him to the meeting. He says he arrived late and when he heard the lawyer discussing the issue of adoptions, he texted his assistant to call him out.

"No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted," Kushner's statement says.

Kushner also denies reports he discussed setting up a secret back-channel with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

He said he did speak with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in December at Trump Tower. But he says that conversation was about policy in Syria.

Kushner says that when Kislyak asked if 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.

He also says he met with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, at the request of Kislyak. But he says no specific policies were discussed.

Kushner also explained that his application form for a security clearance form was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with his assistant, who had erroneously believed the document was complete.

He said he mistakenly omitted all of his foreign contacts, not just his meetings with Russians, and has worked in the last six months with the FBI to correct the record.

Trump Jr. and Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was also at the June 2016 meeting, were scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. But on Friday their attorneys said they remained in negotiations with that panel. The two men are now in discussions to be privately interviewed by staff or lawmakers, though the GOP chairman of the committee, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, has said they will eventually testify in public.

The president took to Twitter over the weekend to defend himself and repeat his criticism of the investigations. On Sunday, Trump tweeted: "As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!"

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Associated Press writers Chad Day and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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