Kushner denies colluding with Russians

Jared Kushner has defended his contact with Russians during last year’s presidential campaign and transition as fleeting and innocuous, denying he attempted to set up a “secret back channel” with the Kremlin to evade detection.

The son-in-law of Donald Trump said in a statement he had “perhaps four contacts” with Russian representatives in the months leading up to January’s inauguration but that none were “impactful” on the election.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Mr Kushner said in written testimony released on Monday ahead of a Capitol Hill appearance. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector.”

Mr Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, has become one of the focuses of a sprawling investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.

Although recent controversy has focused on Mr Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, for agreeing to meet a Russian lawyer with purported information from the Kremlin to damage rival Hillary Clinton, Mr Kushner has been tied to several meetings that have raised questions from congressional investigators.

Mr Kushner acknowledged attending the meeting with Mr Trump Jr and the Russian lawyer, but insisted the session proved so innocuous that he did not recall the gathering until the recent controversy.

“I actually emailed my assistant from the meeting after I had been there for 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting’,” he testified.

Of potentially more significance are allegations, first published in the Washington Post, that Mr Kushner attempted to set up back-channel communications with the Kremlin through Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington.

At a meeting with Mr Kislyak and incoming US national security adviser Michael Flynn in December, Mr Kushner said he asked the ambassador if there were existing lines of communication for Moscow’s generals to brief Mr Flynn on events in Syria. When he told there were none, “nothing else occurred”, said Mr Kushner.

“I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel’. I did not suggest an ongoing secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. 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,” he testified.

Along with Mr Trump Jr and former campaign manager Paul Manafort, Mr Kushner is due to appear before Congress to address the allegations this week. He now hoped to put an end to the “conjecture, speculation, and inaccurate information” about potential links with Moscow, he said.

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