Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser to his administration, met with members of the Senate intelligence committee Monday regarding any meetings he had with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.
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Ahead of his testimony, Kushner, 36, released a prepared statement detailing any contact he had with foreign leaders, asserting that he did not “collude” with a foreign government during Trump’s campaign.
“I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector,” Kushner said in the statement.
In his statement, he said he had four contacts with Russians during the campaign – including the controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer that included Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son.
Of that meeting – which was set up on the claim that the attorney had damaging information regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton – Kushner said he arrived late. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was talking about the ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children when Kushner arrived to the meeting, he said.
“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 10 or so minutes and wrote, ‘Can you pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting,’” Kushner said.
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Kushner’s meeting was behind closed doors.
President Donald Trump expressed praise for his son-in-law early Tuesday morning in a tweet.
“Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!” Trump tweeted.
He is set for round two of questioning by congressional investigators on Capitol Hill Tuesday with members of the House intelligence committee.
Read on for a look at Kushner’s role in the White House.
Kushner married Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, in October 2009 at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
The pair have three children together.
Together, Kushner and Ivanka Trump are estimated to be worth at least $240 million, with their holdings possibly exceeding $740 million, a March financial report from the White House revealed.
Kushner was a major contributor to Democratic politicians prior to his father-in-law’s foray into politics.
When he was still president-elect, on Jan. 9, Trump named Kushner as senior adviser to the president. His role, according to a press release, is to “work closely with” White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as well as to “execute President-elect Trump’s agenda.”
“Jared has been a tremendous asset and trusted adviser throughout the campaign and transition and I am proud to have him in a key leadership role in my administration,” Trump said in a statement at the time. “He has been incredibly successful, in both business and now politics. He will be an invaluable member of my team as I set and execute an ambitious agenda, putting the American people first.”
In his own statement, Kushner said it’s “an honor to serve our country.”
Kushner was not expected to take a salary, the Washington Post reported at the time. He does, however, have top security clearance.
Kushner’s appointment to such a high-level position in the White House raised questions about U.S. nepotism laws, which prohibit public officials from hiring family members for positions or offices which they oversee.
Son-in-law is considered a “relative” by the 1967 federal anti-nepotism law.
“I would err on the side of caution and say that the statute prohibits the appointment, but far riskier would be not doing the appointment and then allowing him a significant role in policy,” Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School who served as George W. Bush’s top ethics lawyer, told the New York Post.
Stephen Miller, who formally worked for Attorney General Jeff Sessions when Sessions was a U.S. senator, is also a senior adviser on policy for Trump.
Getting down to business
Trump tapped Kushner to lead his new Office of American Innovation on March 27.
The office will serve to fulfill one of Trump’s campaign promises to run the federal government more like a business, as it will make recommendations on how to improve government operations.
“As a former leader in the private sector, I am proud to officially announce the White House Office of American Innovation, which will develop innovative solutions to many problems our country faces,” Trump said in a statement announcing the office.
He added that one of his reasons for running for office was “the need for new thinking and real change.”
“The Office of American Innovation will bring a creative and strategic approach to many critical issues and intractable problems that affect Americans’ quality of life,” Kushner said in a statement in March. “We have an opportunity to identify and implement solutions by combining internal resources with the private sector’s innovation and creativity, enabling the federal government to better serve Americans.”
Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Gary Cohn, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Andrew Bremberg, Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives Chris Liddell, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental and Technology Initiatives Reed Cordish and Senior Counselor to the President for Economic Initiatives Dina Powell were also appointed to the office, according to a White House press release.
Aside from government innovation, Kushner has acted as a sort of “shadow secretary of state” in the Trump administration, a source told Politico in February.
For starters, he has been tasked with brokering peace in the Middle East and running point on peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Trump said to Kushner an event just prior to his inauguration.
In April, Kushner traveled to Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford. His trip was to witness the situation in Iraq for himself and to show support for Baghdad, White House officials said at the time.
Kushner attended — and “helped plan and oversee,” according to the White House — the initial part of Trump’s first foreign trip as president in May.
But Kushner’s interest in foreign affairs is reportedly rubbing some in Trump’s administration the wrong way. A number of State Department and embassy officials are consternated as Kushner has talked with foreign government officials on behalf of Trump, Politico reported.
And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also been annoyed, but has not gone “off the deep end at the White House,” according to Politico.
That, in part, is due to his own relationship with Kushner and understanding that Trump’s son-in-law “understands the president better than anyone else, but also understands that he doesn’t know the military like Mattis, that he doesn’t know foreign leaders better than Tillerson. He knows what he doesn’t know,” Politico reported.
Internally, Kushner has reportedly played a role in administrative efforts — including the removal of certain officials.
Along with Vice President Mike Pence, Kushner reportedly supported and pushed for the firing of FBI Director James Comey earlier in May.
But Kushner also reportedly had a hand in the removal of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from Trump’s White House transition team, according to the New York Times. Kushner, too, was also the catalyst behind the oustings of former Michigan Rep. Mike Rodgers and lobbyist Matthew Freedman, who had been handling national security for the transition team, the Times reported.
Kushner was also said to be involved in a little-known internal policy shop with Bannon, called the Strategic Initiatives Group.
The group’s goal was to guide Trump through the unfamiliar in his job as well as connect the White House to industry, the Daily Beast reported in January. However, the White House denied the existence of such a so-called internal think tank.
As the FBI continues its investigation into possible Russian collusion into the 2016 investigation, Kushner’s own dealings and conversations with government officials have made him a “person of interest,” according to reports.
Kushner held meetings in December 2016 with a Russian financial official as well as the Russian ambassador which are being investigated by the FBI, according to the Washington Post. However, the probe doesn’t necessarily mean that the FBI thinks Kushner has done anything wrong.
Kushner is also considered to be in a different category in the investigation than two former Trump officials -- former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told Fox News. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee has called for Kushner’s high-level security clearance to be revoked “until the FBI’s findings are complete.”