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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Jared Kushner denies colluding with Russia during Trump campaign 

In his opening statement, released before the private hearing, Mr Kushner said: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government

Jared Kushner arrives for his appearance before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, in Washington, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Jared Kushner arrives for his appearance before a closed session of the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, in Washington, July 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, denied any collusion with Moscow and insisted he had nothing to hide when he appeared before the first of two congressional committees on Monday.

In his opening statement, released before the private hearing, he said: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.

“I had no improper contacts.

“I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Mr Kushner has come under intense suspicion after it emerged he failed to declare several interactions with Russian officials during and after the 2016 election campaign.

The steady drip of revelations – most recently that he was present at a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer and lobbyist who claimed they had damaging information about Hillary Clinton – has cast a deep shadow over the White House.

Mr Kushner faces two days of intense questioning. On Monday, he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee and on Tuesday will go before its House equivalent.

Mr Trump laid down some distracting covering fire in the minutes before the first session was due to start, tweeting: “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered [attorney general], looking into Crooked Hillary’s crimes & Russia relations?”

Mr Kushner, who is married to the president’s daughter Ivanka, confirmed to the committee he had been present at the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who reportedly offered damaging information on Mrs Clinton. He said he arrived late to discover the participants were discussing Moscow’s ban on Americans adopting Russian children.

“I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting,” he said, adding that he emailed an aide for help in leaving politely.

“Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,” he wrote, adding that he gave it no more thought until details emerged recently.

Those details – in an email chain released by Donald Jr, the president’s son – suggested Mr Kushner had been sent information suggesting the meeting had been set up after an intermediary said the Russian government wanted to help Mr Trump win the election.

However, Mr Kushner said he received more than 200 emails a day during the campaign.

“I did not have the time to read every one, especially long emails from unknown senders or email chains to which I was added at some later point in the exchange,” he said.

Mr Kushner will also face questions about reports he tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow.

In his statement, he said the matter last December by Sergey Kislyak, Russian ambassador to Washington, who wanted a secure line to the Trump transition office through which to discuss Syria.

Mr Kushner said the ambassador was told no such line existed before he asked whether such a channel might exist already at the Russian embassy. The matter was dropped, he added, when the ambassador told him that was not possible.

“Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel,’” he said.

“I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period. We did not discuss sanctions.”

He also insisted that omissions on his security clearance form were simply the result of sending an incomplete draft by mistake.

His statement concludes: “Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”

Observers said the words amounted to an unequivocal baseline against which investigators could compare their evidence.

Ron Brownstein, senior editor at the Atlantic, told CNN: “There are no subordinate clauses here.”

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