Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who has been drawn into the billowing inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election, told congressional investigators on Monday that he hoped his appearance before them would clear his name and “put these matters to rest”.
But in his presentation to members of the Senate intelligence committee, the 36-year-old husband of Ivanka Trump might have dug himself deeper into a hole by leaning so heavily on personal ignorance as the core of his defense. By doing so he raised a slew of new questions about how the US president could have entrusted someone with such little foreign policy ballast with a powerful international portfolio.
“I could not even remember the name of the Russian ambassador,” he writes. He added that he had “limited knowledge about” Sergey Kislyak, who stepped down as ambassador on Saturday, even after Trump had won the presidential election on 8 November 2016 and was headed for the White House.
Not knowing the ambassador’s name was a mild challenge compared with his handling of the now notorious 9 June meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. At that engagement, Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr invited Kushner and then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to meet four Russians including Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin.
Kushner insists he didn’t read the email chain in which Don Jr was offered dirt on Hillary Clinton as a pretext for the meeting. When he walked into the meeting, he goes on to say that he was confused by the topic of conversation that was under way – the Russian ban on Americans adopting Russian children.
“I had no idea why that topic was being raised,” he said, apparently unaware that the adoption ban is extensively used by Russian emissaries as a euphemism for US sanctions imposed on Russia. The subject of sanctions is central to modern diplomatic relations between the two countries.
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