Innuendos and wild speculation passing as “objective” reporting, based on leaks from anonymous sources, have become the stock in trade of the fake media. Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been one of the principal targets of the media campaign to discredit the Trump administration. Silent for months in the face of mounting speculation of his possible role in alleged collusion of the Trump campaign with Russia, Kushner has finally sought to set the record straight. This week he is meeting with congressional staffers and lawmakers to discuss in detail his activities during the campaign and transition periods, particularly his contacts with Russian officials.
In a statement issued ahead of his closed-door interview with Senate intelligence committee staffers, Kushner 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." He provided details on several contacts he had with Russians during his father-in-law’s campaign and transition, none of which he deemed to be improper.
Kushner’s statement provides valuable context to the meetings in which he participated. He pointed out that during the course of the campaign, he had contacts with people from approximately 15 countries, noting that he “must have received thousands of calls, letters and emails from people looking to talk or meet on a variety of issues and topics, including hundreds from outside the United States.” Russia was one of those countries.
Kushner recalled his first contact with Russia’s ambassador to the United States as having occurred at the Washington, D.C. Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. His father-in-law, then-candidate Donald Trump, was giving a major foreign policy speech.
Some in the media have sought to portray Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ own brief encounter with the Russian ambassador to the United States at the Mayflower Hotel as something more sinister than it really was. NBC breathlessly reported last month that Kushner too was involved in the encounter, along with then-candidate Donald Trump. Citing “multiple” anonymous sources, NBC said they were part of “a small gathering with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak and other diplomats at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel.” NBC further characterized this gathering as “some sort of private encounter.”
Kushner explained that he was overseeing the logistics for his father-in-law’s Mayflower Hotel speech. He then stopped into a reception to thank the host of the event, who introduced Kushner to several guests, among them four ambassadors, including Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Kushner recalled that he shook hands with the ambassadors, including Ambassador Kislyak, and exchanged pleasantries. “Each exchange lasted less than a minute,” Kushner said, adding that “some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions.”
Kushner’s account is backed by reporting in the Wall Street Journal shortly after the Mayflower event. NBC’s effort to dredge up the encounter more than a year later and imply that it was possible evidence of collusion is yet another example of fake news.
The only other time that Kushner recalls meeting with Ambassador Kislyak occurred during the transition period following the election. The meeting took place in Trump Tower, and lasted between twenty and thirty minutes. Lt. General Michael Flynn (Ret.), who had been named President-elect Trump’s National Security Advisor, also attended.
In May of this year, the Washington Post published an article, pounced on by CNN, which claimed that Kushner had proposed setting up a secret channel of communication with Russia during the transition. The report cited unidentified sources briefed on intelligence matters, including what were described as intercepts of conversations between Russia's ambassador and Moscow. To his credit, one of the Washington Postreporters acknowledged the obvious fact that Russians do sometimes exaggerate in their reports to their superiors. However, CNN cited its own unidentified source claiming that the “transition team was looking for ways to establish a back channel to Putin.”
Jared Kushner explained in his statement that he had asked Russian Ambassador Kislyak to identify the best person with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with President Vladimir Putin. According to Kushner, it was the ambassador who initiated a more specific discussion about whether a secure line could be set up in the transition office to enable Russian “generals” to convey information on matters of mutual concern, including Syria. As there was not any such secure line, Kushner asked the ambassador “if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn.” The ambassador said that would not be possible, after which they all agreed to defer the matter until after the inauguration.
“Nothing else occurred,” Kushner said. “I did not suggest a ‘secret back channel.’ I did not suggest an on-going 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. We did not discuss sanctions.”
Most importantly, this meeting at which the idea of a secure communications line was raised occurred after Donald Trump had already won the election. The discussion was aimed at figuring out how sensitive information of potential use to the incoming administration could be securely transmitted. That should be no surprise, as President Trump had talked about opening up possible opportunities for cooperation with Russia in fighting ISIS all during the campaign. Nevertheless, the Washington Post and CNN appeared to be trying to use a perfectly normal discussion between the Russian ambassador and the president-elect’s senior advisor to support their overall conspiratorial narrative.
Kushner also pushed back at a Reuters story claiming that Kushner had two calls with Ambassador Kislyak at some time between April and November of 2016. Kushner referred in his statement to a comprehensive review he said was conducted of his telephone records from the relevant time period. The review did not reveal any such calls, according to Kushner’s statement.
"Through my lawyer, I have asked Reuters to provide the dates on which the calls supposedly occurred or the phone number at which I supposedly reached, or was reached by, Ambassador Kislyak,” Kushner added. “The journalist refused to provide any corroborating evidence that they occurred.” Unless Reuters provides hard evidence backing up its story, it will serve as another example of media willing to publish fake news in order to undermine the Trump presidency.
Kushner also described his presence at the June 9, 2016 meeting with the infamous Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, also attended by Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and several other people. CNN in particular has been reporting on this meeting incessantly. It intimated a cover-up, citing Kushner’s failure to originally disclose this meeting and other contacts he had with Russian officials in his initial security clearance application. "Who do you have to protect? You have to protect the guy who filled out the form saying I never took this meeting," one of CNN’s unnamed sources said.
Kushner had a simple, credible explanation for the oversight. His involvement in the meeting was too inconsequential for him to remember including in the original application. Here is how he described his short stay at the meeting:
“I arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, 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.’ I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently.”
Kushner claimed he had not read at the time the full e-mail exchanges informing his brother-in-law of an offer of potentially incriminating evidence the Russians reportedly had on Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he amended his security clearance application while preparing to testify before Congress to include disclosure of the meeting that included the Russian lawyer, after reviewing the e-mail chain for the first time.
Members of the hate-Trump media will continue to spin their Russian conspiratorial theories in an effort to delegitimize the Trump presidency. Jared Kushner has credibly pushed back in his statement with specific, documentable facts in place of the fake media’s innuendos.