Trump’s son-in-law set for second Russia grilling


Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has insisted he made no deals with Russia as part of the US presidential campaign.

Following a closed-door Senate committee hearing on Monday, the senior White House aide told waiting media he had answered all the questions put to him.

On Tuesday, House committee members will ask their questions, again in closed session.

The focus will once again be his meetings with Russian officials and why he failed to fully disclose his foreign contacts when getting his security clearance.

Speaking after Monday’s appearance, Mr Kushner said: “All of my actions were proper.”

He added: “I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”

Mr Kushner hit out at critics, saying the Trump campaign “had a better message and ran a smarter campaign and that is why he won” – adding that he has been “fully transparent in providing all requested information”.

As he left the hearing, a protester blocked waiting reporters, shouting: “Impeach this President!”

In an 11-page written statement released before his appearance at the meeting, Mr Kushner insisted there was no deal with “any foreign government” prior to last year’s US election.

The property developer, who is believed to be subject to an FBI investigation into Russia’s alleged role in the US election, wrote: “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.”

In his statement, Mr Kushner said he had “perhaps four contacts with Russian representatives” out of thousands of meetings during the election campaign and Mr Trump’s later transition to the presidency.

He said none “were impactful in any way to the election or particularly memorable”.

Mr Kushner, who is married to Mr Trump’s eldest daughter and fellow White House adviser Ivanka Trump, expressed his hope “this puts these matters to rest” and is “grateful for the opportunity to set the record straight”.

Alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia – along with Moscow’s possible meddling in the US election – are currently the focus of a number of inquiries, including an investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, an ex-FBI chief.

The US President used his Twitter account on Monday to attack the various probes, as well as fuel speculation he will sack the government’s chief lawyer, attorney-general Jeff Sessions, whom he branded “beleaguered”.

Mr Trump wrote: “So why aren’t the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?”

Mr Sessions had to remove himself from any Russia investigations earlier this year after he was accused of failing to declare meetings with Russian officials before taking on the government job.

The US President has previously branded the various investigations a “witch hunt” over “phony” allegations.

The role of Mr Kushner has come further under scrutiny after Mr Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, released emails earlier this month showing he held discussions over an offer of Russian information to “incriminate” Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

A subsequent meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016 was also attended by Mr Kushner and Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chief at the time.

In his written statement, Mr Kushner branded the 9 June meeting a “waste of time” and insisted he was unaware Ms Veselnitskaya would be present, adding he had never met her since.

He wrote: “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 10-or-so minutes and wrote ‘Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting’.”

Mr Kushner described how Mr Trump asked him to be a point of contact for foreign officials wanting to get in touch with his campaign, adding a short meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak was among “normal” contacts with around 15 countries.

He said he is “highly sceptical” of allegations he held two further phonecalls with Mr Kislyak last year, writing: “I do not recall any such calls with the Russian ambassador.”

Following Mr Trump’s election victory on 9 November, Mr Kushner claimed he “could not even remember the name of the Russian ambassador”.

He denied attempting to set up a “secret back channel” with Moscow in the wake of Mr Trump’s election, following previous claims Mr Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for their discussions.

Mr Kushner said he did not initially disclose any meetings with Russians or any other foreign government officials on a government security form because it was “prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication”.

Some US politicians have demanded answers over whether Russian social media “trolls” were connected to Mr Trump’s campaign, for which Mr Kushner oversaw digital strategy.