Kushner Says He Did Not Collude With Russia During 2016 Campaign
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump's son-in-law wrote it down. Jared Kushner says he did not collude with Russia during the 2016 election.
He released a statement this morning before going in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he will be asked about his contacts with Russians, for sure.
We're going to talk about this with NPR's Domenico Montanaro, who's on the line. Hi, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: So what stands out for you in these 11 pages?
MONTANARO: Well, as you noted, you know, 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.
All of those are sort of prebuttals to a lot of questions people have. One, whether or not he had an ongoing or extensive relationship at all with Russian officials, and whether or not he was using the campaign in a way to be able to try to pay back some of the $1.3 billion that he and his family still owe for this building on Fifth Avenue that they built. And there was a meeting with a Russian bank official, in which a lot of people on the Hill have some questions about.
INSKEEP: So let's make sure we're clear on the facts that are known. He did meet with Russian bankers. He was part of a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. I mean, he's had meetings...
INSKEEP: ...We know that.
MONTANARO: Right, and he met four times with Russian officials - twice during the campaign, twice after.
You know, what really stands out for me is sort of the naivete that he shows in some of this, and maybe that's purposeful, maybe it's not. I dont know. But, you know, he bills himself as somebody who's not used to a campaign. He didn't really understand how these things kind of work. He had to reach out to other officials outside of the government - outside of the Trump campaign - to kind of help them with that - notably Henry Kissinger, who was Nixon's national security adviser and secretary of state.
You know, so a lot of this - you know, and this secret back channel, for example, that was supposedly said that he had created. He pushes back against that and said that he had met with Sergey Kislyak, who was the Russian ambassador, and that he just wanted to see if they had a secure channel to be able to talk to Russian officials because they didn't have one in the Trump campaign.
It's such an odd thing because, instead of talking to government officials...
INSKEEP: U.S. government officials - who you're trying to be secure from if you're using the Russian channel to talk to Russians.
MONTANARO: Right, like why not speak to a U.S. agency about how the president-elect could do that, rather than trying to coordinate with Russia to be able to operate out of their embassy?
INSKEEP: Domenico, I want to be sure I understand what the statement is. This thing that he's released, this 11 pages, is a statement to Congress in advance of his closed Senate testimony. Is that right?
MONTANARO: Correct. So the Senate had originally asked him to testify in public, but he reached a deal anyhow with - with the committee to say that he could testify, or at least be interviewed, behind closed doors not under oath.
INSKEEP: So - so just here's what I want to ask though, before we run out of time, Senator Chuck Grassley, in a different context over the weekend, tweeted, it's a crime to lie to Congress, whether you're under oath or not.
So no matter how he has given this statement to Congress, he's really putting - putting himself behind it to say I did not collude with Russia in this statement.
MONTANARO: Well, this statement, at least, is in public. It's 11 pages. It's out there for anyone to read, and anyone could use that in - you know, against him if he were to try to change anything about that.
But there's a difference between talking behind closed doors, rather than testifying under oath, out in the open and in - and in front of cameras.
INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks as always.
MONTANARO: Thank you.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro, talking about Jared Kushner's statement - 11 pages, released today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.