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Kushner on Russia dealings: ‘I had no improper contacts’

July 24, 2017 at 6:50 PM EDT
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner spoke privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee about his dealings with Russia, before delivering a brief public statement in which he denied colluding with the Russian government and dismissed the idea that the Trump campaign benefitted from Russian election meddling. John Yang reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Denial and defense, the president’s son-in-law offered both today in the Russia investigation. He spoke privately for members of the U.S. Senate staff and briefly publicly for news cameras.

Our coverage begins with John Yang.

JOHN YANG: Outside the White House West Wing, Jared Kushner did something he rarely does: speak to reporters.

JARED KUSHNER, Senior Presidential Adviser: Let me be very clear. I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts.

Read Jared Kushner’s prepared statement to the Senate intelligence committee

JOHN YANG: He dismissed the idea that his father-in-law benefited from Russian meddling in the election.

JARED 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.

JOHN YANG: Kushner took no questions from reporters, but said he had answered all questions from Senate Intelligence Committee investigators in a two-hour closed-door session. His 11-page prepared remarks gave the first public explanation of four meetings he had with Russians during the campaign and transition.

He said he didn’t know the purpose of the June 9, 2016, meeting Donald Trump Jr. set up with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and others in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he arrived late and “quickly determined that my time wasn’t well-spent. It was,” he said, “a waste of our time,” a judgment his brother-in-law has also expressed.

DONALD TRUMP JR., Son of Donald Trump: It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.

JOHN YANG: Less than a month after President Trump won the election, on December 1, Kushner and national security adviser-designate Michael Flynn met with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. According to Kushner, the envoy said he wanted to talk about Syria and convey information from his generals. Kislyak asked if there was a secure line in the transition office.

Told that there wasn’t, Kushner asked if the Russians had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use. The ambassador said that wouldn’t be possible.

On December 13, Kushner met, at Kislyak’s insistence, with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian bank that is under U.S. sanctions. He said Gorkov told him he was friendly with President Putin and expressed hopes for a better relationship in the future. Kushner said he has not been in contact with Gorkov since.

As for the matter of Kushner’s original security clearance application not including any of his foreign contacts, the president’s son-in-law said it was an accident. He said it was submitted prematurely due to a miscommunication with an assistant. It’s been updated at least three times.

On Sunday, the White House appeared ready to accept a new sanctions bill scheduled for a House vote tomorrow. It would target Russia and limit Mr. Trump’s ability to lift the penalties.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, White House Press Secretary: We support where the legislation is now. We will continue working with the House and Senate to put those tough sanctions in place.

JOHN YANG: But late today, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president is still studying the legislation, which was introduced because of questions raised by the Russia investigation, which has now entered a new phase.

Kushner will be back on Capitol Hill tomorrow for a private session with members of the House Intelligence Committee.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m John Yang.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House said later that President Trump was — quote — “very proud” of his son-in-law’s actions today.

We will go deeper on all of this right after the news summary.

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