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'I did not collude' with foreign officials, Jared Kushner says in advance of testimony

 (Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)
(Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP)

"I did not collude" and "had no improper contacts" with Russia or any other foreign government, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, declared Monday.

Kushner's representatives released the statement early Monday morning. Later in the day, he met with investigators and members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In the statement, Kushner described four meetings he had with Russians, including two with Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. He confirmed a report first published in the Washington Post that at a meeting in December, he had inquired about using a secure communications line at the Russian embassy to conduct talks with Russian officials.

Kushner did not initially disclose any meetings with Russians on forms he submitted to get a government security clearance. He has since revised those forms several times.

According to Kushner, the topic of secure communications came up after Kislyak asked if there was a secure line in the Trump transition office for a discussion about Syria between Trump transition officials and Russian generals.

Kushner said he suggested using a communications channel at the Russian embassy, but he denied the suggestion that he was trying to set up a secret back channel for communications between Trump advisors and the Kremlin.

Kushner did not say why he would not have used U.S. government secure communications for the discussion Kislyak wanted to have.

After Kislyak said using embassy facilities was not possible, they agreed to follow up after the inauguration, Kushner said.

"Nothing else occurred. 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," Kushner said.

He did not discuss lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia with Kislyak, Kushner added.

"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."

Kushner said he also did not discuss sanctions at a Dec. 13 meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank. He had the meeting at Kislyak’s urging because Gorkov had a "direct relationship" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said.

"I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since," Kushner wrote.

Kushner also said he had not “relied on Russian funds” to finance his real estate business.

"I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector," he said.

Later this week, Kushner is scheduled to meet with the House Intelligence Committee. Both panels are investigating Russian actions to sway the 2016 election in Donald Trump's favor and whether any people associated with the Trump campaign cooperated in that effort.

The Senate panel plans two days of closed-door questioning of Kushner as part of its investigation.

Separately, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort are expected to be interviewed by investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is conducting its own probe. Those meetings will be behind closed doors, but the two are expected to testify publicly at some point, Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said last week.

Kushner also described a June 9, 2016, meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have information damaging to Hillary Clinton.

The session was a "waste of our time," he said. No information about Clinton or the Democrats was discussed during the part of the meeting he attended, Kushner said, although he said he arrived late and left early.

Kushner said he knew nothing about the purpose of the meeting to which he had been invited by Trump Jr., his brother-in-law.

He said he did not read the lengthy email chain that Trump Jr. forwarded to him before the meeting. In those emails, the friend of Trump Jr.'s who set up the meeting said a Russian lawyer would deliver derogatory information about Clinton as part of Russia's efforts to help Trump.

Once he arrived at the meeting and determined it was a poor use of his time, he sent a message to an assistant asking that someone call him on his cell phone to give him an excuse to leave, Kushner said.

He only became aware of the emails in recent weeks when his lawyers found them while going through his records, he said.

"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," he wrote.

In addition to that meeting and the two in December, Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter, Ivanka, said he had only one other meeting with a Russian during the campaign or transition. That was a brief encounter with Kislyakat a reception in the spring of 2016.

The meeting was so unmemorable, he said, that after the election, when Trump received a congratulatory message from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Kushner was asked to authenticate it, he had to ask someone to remind him of the ambassador's name.

He disputed a report by the Reuters news agency that he had two telephone calls with Kislyak, saying he had no recollection of that, and his lawyers had found no record of such calls.

Kushner also offered an explanation for having initially submitted a federal form for a security clearance that did not report his meetings with Russians or other foreigners, something the form specifically asks for.

He said his assistant had misunderstood a message from other staff members and had believed the form was complete when it was still just a draft. The assistant submitted the form, known as an SF-86, erroneously, he said, adding that his office had submitted updated information detailing his foreign contacts before that became the subject of news reports. 

9:25 a.m.: This post was updated with Kushner's arrival to meet with senators and with additional information.

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