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Politics & Policy

Kushner’s Russia Statement Is Plausible — But Is It Enough to Convince Congress?

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, released written remarks on Monday before a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee. The takeaway: Kushner maintains that he never colluded with Russian officials to help his father-in-law win the presidency.

Kushner confessed that he did attend the highly politicized meeting with Donald Trump Jr., a Russian attorney, and other officials, but left the meeting after determining that his “time was not well-spent at this meeting.” “In looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work,” Kushner recalled, “I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting.’”

He also vehemently denied the allegation that there was contact between him and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the campaign. His alibi? After Trump won the election, Kushner asked Kislyak who in the Russian government he ought to reach out to (i.e., someone who has direct contact with Russian president Vladimir Putin). “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day,” Kushner said, “should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.” Ultimately, Kushner denied that he or anyone in the meeting with Kislyak suggested creating a secret back channel between the Trump team and the Russian government.

Perhaps most noteworthy, though, is Kushner’s reasoning for failing to disclose Russian meetings in his security-clearance filing. His assistant, Kushner said, was under the impression that the entire form was completed; he had told the assistant that a particular section of the form had been finalized, which caused the confusion. “Because of this miscommunication,” Kushner said, “my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.” And contrary to media reports, the meetings with Russian officials were not the only meetings mistakenly withheld: “In the accidental early submission of the form, all foreign contacts were omitted.”

It remains to be seen whether members of the Senate Intelligence Committee will buy this narrative.

Austin YackAustin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute and a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.

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