By Maya Rhodan
July 24, 2017

In prepared remarks published Monday ahead of a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, White House advisor Jared Kushner denied having any improper contact with foreign officials.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” said Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law. The Intelligence Committee is running one of several investigations into potential links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

Kushner’s statement included a carefully worded denial of reports that he sought to set up a backchannel to communicate with the Kremlin. It also attempted to separate Kushner from a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Here are three ways Kushner carefully chose his words in his prepared testimony.

Hedge Words

The statement is peppered with some flat-out denials, but Kushner hedges in some of his recollections of conversations and events.

For example, Kushner does not deny meeting then Sergey Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016. But he says he does not recall two calls Reuters reports he had with Kislyak between that time and November.

“We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place,” Kushner said.

Pleading Ignorance

Kushner’s statement leverages his lack of familiarity with the political world. When discussing conversations he is alleged to have had with Kislyak, Kushner said he could not remember Kisylak’s name when seeking to verify a congratulatory email from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I thought the best way would be to ask the only contact I recalled meeting from the Russian government, which was the Ambassador I had met months earlier, so I sent an email asking . . . ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?'” Kushner said.

Kushner made similar statements when discussing the Clinton meeting:

I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted.

Kushner also argued that the fact he asked Kislyak in December about ways to communicate with Putin “should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”

Strategic Transparency

Kushner used the statement to make his case regarding alleged communications with Russians throughout the campaign and transition period. Here’s how he explained his version of the reported effort to set up backchannel communications with Moscow:

I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a “secret back channel.” I did not suggest an on-going secret form of communication for then or for when the administration took office. I did not raise the possibility of using the embassy or any other Russian facility for any purpose other than this one possible conversation in the transition period. We did not discuss sanctions.

Kushner also addressed the disclosure form he submitted before receiving a security clearance, saying the version his assistant submitted in January was meant to be a “draft.” He added that no foreign contacts, Russian or otherwise, were included in that version. Kushner has since updated his disclosure form.

In the week before the Inauguration, amid the scramble of finalizing the unwinding of my involvement from my company, moving my family to Washington, completing the paper work to divest assets and resign from my outside positions and complete my security and financial disclosure forms, people at my New York office were helping me find the information, organize it, review it and put it into the electronic form. They sent an email to my assistant in Washington, communicating that the changes to one particular section were complete; my assistant interpreted that message as meaning that the entire form was completed. At that point, the form was a rough draft and still had many omissions including not listing any foreign government contacts and even omitted the address of my father-in-law (which was obviously well known). Because of this miscommunication, my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.

Overall, Kushner’s statement can be read as an attempt to prove he has nothing to hide.

“As I indicated, I know there has been a great deal of speculation and conjecture about my contacts with any officials or people from Russia,” he said. “I have disclosed these contacts and described them as fully as I can recall.”

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