(CN) – Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner on Monday denied that he colluded with Russians in the course of 2016 presidential campaign, declaring in a written statement and in person, outside the West Wing of the White House, that he has “nothing to hide.”
Kushner spent about two hours Monday answering questions behind closed doors from the Senate intelligence committee on his contacts with Russian officials, insisting he had not colluded with foreign agents before or after the 2016 presidential campaign.
He emerged smiling from the Capitol shortly after noon and was driven directly to White House, where he addressed reporters an hour later.
Kushner reiterated claims laid out in an 11-page statement released prior to his meeting with the senators, calling his conversations with the Russians “normal events in the course of an extraordinary campaign.”
He also attempted to put a decidedly political spin on the controversy over alleged Russian meddling in the presidential election, saying his father-in-law “had a better message and ran a smarter campaign. That is why he won.”
To suggest otherwise, Kushner said,”ridicules those who voted for him.”
He took no questions from reporters.
In his earlier written statement, Kushner details four contacts with Russians during his father-in-law’s successful campaign and the transition that followed.
Throughout the document, Kushner tries to explain inconsistencies and omissions in a security clearance form that have invited public scrutiny in recent weeks..
“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” Kushner says.
He goes on to insist that none of the contacts, which including at Trump Tower with the Russian ambassador and a Russian lawyer, was improper.
With his testimony on Capitol Hill, Kushner becomes the first member of the president’s inner circle to face questions from congressional investigators as they probe Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign.
He is to meet with staff on the Senate intelligence committee Monday and lawmakers on the House intelligence committee Tuesday.
Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are still in negotiations with lawmakers over when, or if, they will appear before Congress to testify.
In his written statement, Kushner calls a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” that after 10 minutes he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.
Emails released earlier this by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., revealed he accepted the meeting with Veselnitskaya believing he was to receive information as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign.
But Kushner says he hadn’t seen those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.
According to Kushner, Trump Jr. invited him to the meeting. He says he arrived late and when he heard the lawyer discussing the issue of adoptions, he texted his assistant to call him out.
“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 says.
The statement also provides, for the first time, Kushner’s account of a meeting at Trump Tower with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to talk about secure lines of communications between Russia and the Trump administration.
Kushner denies the discussion, which also included retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, then-incoming national security adviser, had anything to do with setting up a “secret back-channel” with the Russian government.
Kushner said he and Kislyak talked about establishing a secure line for the countries to communicate about policy in Syria.
Kushner said that when Kislyak asked if there was a secure way for him to provide information on Syria from what Kislyak called his “generals,” Kushner asked if there was an existing communications channel at the embassy that could be used to convey the 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. Nothing else occurred,” the statement said.