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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, disclosed in a statement to members of Congress four distinct interactions with Russians during the presidential campaign and transition period. The 11-page statement provides his first detailed account of meetings over the last year with the Russian ambassador to the United States, a Russian lawyer and a Russian banker.
APRIL 27, 2016, MAYFLOWER HOTEL, WASHINGTON
Kushner described meeting Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a hotel reception before Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, was to deliver a major foreign policy speech on the campaign trail.
He said Kislyak was one of four ambassadors he greeted with a handshake and pleasantries. He said he thanked the dignitaries for attending and told them that he hoped they would enjoy Trump's speech and the ambassadors, in turn, "expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election."
He said each interaction lasted less than a minute and he never took up any of the ambassadors on their invitations to lunch at their embassies.
JUNE 9, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Though Kushner maintains that he didn't even recall this meeting until recently reviewing his records, this gathering has caused significant headaches for the Trump White House since it was publicly reported on earlier this month.
Kushner said he was invited by his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr., to a meeting at Trump Tower with a person who turned out to be Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. He said he arrived late, heard discussion about Moscow's ban on Americans adopting Russian children and concluded that the meeting was such a "waste of time" that he quickly looked for a way out.
"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," Kushner said.
Emails that Trump Jr. released show that the president's oldest son came to the meeting with the expectation that the lawyer would provide negative information about Hillary Clinton. Kushner said he hadn't read or recalled those emails until his lawyers recently showed them to him when reviewing documents to submit to the committees.
DEC. 1, 2016, TRUMP TOWER, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said this meeting involved Kislyak and Michael Flynn, who would later become Trump's national security adviser, and lasted between 20 minutes and a half-hour.
In his statement, Kushner denied media reports that said he discussed with Kislyak a secret back-channel for communications.
Instead, Kushner said, Kislyak asked him if there was a secure line for him to convey to Trump administration officials information about Syria that he said was coming from his "generals."
Kushner said that given the importance of Syria and the "ongoing humanitarian crisis," he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that Kislyak felt comfortable using to relay information to Flynn.
"The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration," Kushner said. "Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a 'secret back channel.'"
Flynn was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with Kislyak in a phone call.
DEC. 13, 2016, NEW YORK CITY
Kushner said he attended a meeting in New York with a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, after being asked to do so by Kislyak.
He said Gorkov introduced himself and provided him with two gifts: a bag of dirt from a village in Belarus where Kushner's grandparents were from and a piece of art from the same location. He said Gorkov discussed his bank and the Russian economy and described himself as friendly with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But Kushner insisted that the meeting had nothing to do with his work as a businessman. He said the men did not discuss sanctions against Russia or anything about "my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind."
"I did not know or have any contact with Mr. Gorkov before that meeting, and I have had no reason to connect with him since," Kushner said.
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