One of Donald Trump’s most trusted advisors emerged from more than two hours of questioning by senate investigators to insist he had not colluded with Russia and knew of no-one in the White House who had.
Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and the latest senior member of his team to become caught up in the controversy over alleged links with Moscow, spent the morning behind closed doors answering questions from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Before appearing, Mr Kushner had issued an 11-page statement in which he denied having colluded with Russia to try and influence the presidential election. He also defended four meetings he held with Russian officials, including one with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer that he attended with Donald Trump Jr, the President's eldest son, and campaign manager Paul Manafort, in order to try and obtain incriminating material on Hillary Clinton.
When he left Capitol Hill, Mr Kushner ignored shouted questions from reporters. But 45 minutes later, he appeared outside the White House to read brief remarks on which the media immediately leapt.
“Since the first questions were raised in March, I have been consistent in saying, I was eager to share any information I had with the investigating bodies, and I've done so today. The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” he said.
"Let me be very clear. I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so. I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds for my businesses. I have been fully transparent in providing all requested information."
There are few people within the President’s inner circle who are trusted more than Mr Kushner, whose background is also in real estate rather than politics. Married to Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Mr Kushner has emerged as an increasingly important person during Mr Trump’s campaign for the presidency.
After his surprise victory, Mr Kushner was persuaded to stay on and take a job in the White House, where he was obliged to become a federal employee to get around anti-nepotism rules. Mr Trump has tasked him with everything from improving relations with China to achieving a peace deal for the Middle East.
Mr Kushner was asked to testify on Capitol Hill, where he reportedly spoke while not under oath, following controversy about a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which he participated in at the invitation of Mr Trump Jr and Paul Manafort. Mr Kushner said he had asked an assistant to call him in order to give him an excuse to leave the meeting in June last year after about ten minutes.
Mr Trump Jr admitted he had agreed to the meeting after an intermediary told him the lawyer had information about Ms Clinton that the Trump campaign could use. Ms Veselnitskaya has denied both working for the Kremlin or offering such information, and Mr Trump Jr has said she provided him with no such material.
Mr Kushner’s statement provided the details of four meetings with Russian officials that he was aware of, including the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya.
Among the other meetings was one brief interaction with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in April last year at a Washington hotel where Mr Trump was making a campaign speech. Mr Kushner said he shook hands with the dignitaries at the reception.
“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election … Each exchange lasted less than a minute,” he said.
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