April 23, 2019
President’s son-in-law and senior adviser dismissed concerns about Russian spying operations at Time 100 summit
Jared Kushner dubs Trump-Russia investigation a big distraction
Jared Kushner has played down Russian interference in the 2016 US election, describing Moscow’s attack as “a bunch of Facebook ads” and calling Robert Mueller’s two-year special counsel investigation “a big distraction”.
Speaking at the Time 100 summit in New York City on Tuesday, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser dismissed concerns about Russian spying operations laid out in alarming detail over 199 pages of the Mueller report released last week.
“Quite frankly the whole investigation is just a big distraction for the country … the investigations and all the speculation has had a much harsher impact on democracy than a bunch of Facebook ads,” Kushner said.
“I think now we’ve spent two years going through that nonsense and the one thing the Mueller report is very conclusive on is that there’s absolutely no collaboration or collusion within the Trump campaign. Everything I’ve been saying for the past two years have been fully authenticated.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, Kushner – who has acted as an envoy to the Middle East for his father-in-law – also said:
Top advisers to Trump will present the president with a plan in the coming days that will cover border security and immigration reforms
The White House will unveil a Middle East peace plan sometime after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year ends on 4 June
Kushner said he advised Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be as “transparent as possible” after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi “to make sure there’s accountability for what happened”.
Asked whether he was concerned that Russian intelligence was trying to influence him during the 2016 campaign, Kushner said “everyone in the world is very curious about Trump because he’s a very unknown commodity”.
“We had people coming at us from everywhere. We met with the Russian ambassador during the transition, which is also another area of proof that we didn’t have a connection to the Russians during the campaign,” Kushner said.
Contrary to Kushner’s assertions, Mueller’s report details how senior Trump advisers accepted Russia’s interference, while Trump simultaneously sought the Kremlin’s approval for a multimillion-dollar property deal in Moscow.
Trump tweeted his approval shortly after Kushner’s appearance: “Great interview by Jared. Nice to have extraordinarily smart people serving our Country!”
Asked if he could make any assurances that he does not have any “Russian entanglements”, Kushner said: “When I was thinking of going into government – this is the last thing I thought of doing with my life – I had three companies, I was doing very well, I had a great life, lot less controversial … what I did was hired DC lawyers to look at my financials … They made recommendations on what I needed to divest, what I could keep.
“I went through these recommendations, it was a very exhaustive thing. I’ve adhered to the ethics, to the barriers that they wanted me to keep. I’ve done nothing that’s influenced any of my decisions.”
Despite his claims about transparency and divestment, Kushner has been a model of opacity. As of May 2018, ProPublica reported, Kushner had had to update an ethics disclosure at least 40 times, after leaving off details about big loans, corporate structures and assets.
On immigration, Kushner said some of Trump’s senior advisers would present the president with a plan at the end of this week or early next week, which would cover propose measures to stop illegal immigration – one of Trump’s signature campaign issues – and will also include proposals for a merit-based immigration system, a guest worker program for agriculture and seasonal work, and measures for improving trade flow.
“He’ll make some changes, likely, and then he’ll decide what he wants to do with it,” Kushner said.
Kushner has held about 50 listening sessions with conservative groups on immigration, a senior administration official said. He has been working with the White House economic adviser, Kevin Hassett, and policy adviser Stephen Miller on the plan.
“My hope is that we can put together something that will show people we are for immigration,” Kushner said.
His sentiments appear deeply at odds with Trump’s own messaging on immigration. Trump has pledged to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico in his 2016 run for office, and has since fought with Congress and in the courts for funding to pay for it.
He has argued the wall is needed to prevent undocumented migrants from Central America from entering the country, and has pushed to change laws to make it easier to deport immigrants.
Any immigration overhaul would require legislation from Congress to pass – a difficult order in the time leading up to the next presidential election in November 2020, particularly since Democrats control the House of Representatives.
Kushner – who is said to count the controversial Saudi crown prince among his friends – said the brutal killing of Khashoggi, was an “absolutely horrible thing” but added: “I have certain objectives that are in America’s interests that we need to accomplish, coming to work every day saying how do I move forward on these objectives that further America’s interest.”
Kushner would not discuss any details of the Middle East Peace Plan, including whether it would endorse a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.
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