Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, says all of his actions were proper and occurred within a "very unique campaign."
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, told reporters on Monday he "didn't collude, nor know of anyone else in the [presidential election] campaign" who do so with Russia or any foreign government.
Kushner met behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee staff earlier in the day where he handed over documents and records of his contact with Russian officials during the campaign and the presidential transition.
After meeting the committee for about two hours on Capitol Hill, Kushner returned to the White House where he made a statement to reporters outside but did not take questions.
"The record and documents I have voluntarily provided will show that all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign," Kushner said.
"I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government," he said in a written statement issued before the Senate session.
"I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector."
He detailed four meetings he held last year with Russian officials in a statement on Monday, saying he "did not collude" with Moscow during the 2016 US election campaign.
Trump, who has called the Russia probes politically motivated, lashed out at the investigations in Twitter messages on Monday.
So why aren't the Committees and investigators, and of course our beleaguered A.G., looking into Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 24, 2017
The Senate Intelligence Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating the Russia matter, along with a criminal probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI.
US intelligence agencies have determined that Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, engaged in a campaign of hacking and propaganda to tilt the election in Trump's favour.
Russia denies the allegations and Trump denied his campaign colluded with Moscow.
Meeting with Russian Ambassador
Kushner said he first met Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in Washington in April 2016 and shook hands.
He said he did not recall phone calls with Kislyak between April and November 2016, as reported by Reuters in May, had found no evidence of the calls in phone records and was sceptical they took place.
Reuters reported that there were at least 18 phone calls, text messages and emails between Trump campaign associates and Kremlin-linked individuals between April and November 2016, according to current and former officials.
Among those 18 contacts were six calls between Trump associates and Kislyak.
At least two of the sources identified Kushner as involved in at least two of those calls with Kislyak.
The six calls with Kislyak also included former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, those sources said.
Kushner was expected to face questions about reports he tried to set up a secret back channel to Moscow.
He said that in a December 1 meeting with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador asked if there was a secure line in Trump's transition office to facilitate a discussion with Russian generals about Syria, and Kushner replied there was not.
Kushner said he asked if there was an existing communications channel at the Russian Embassy that could be used, but Kislyak said that was not possible and they agreed to follow up after the inauguration.
"Nothing else occurred. I did not suggest a 'secret back channel,'" Kushner said.
Kushner said he met on December 13, with Sergei Gorkov, the head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, because of Kislyak's insistence and because the Russian had a "direct relationship" with Putin.
"He introduced himself and gave me two gifts — one was a piece of art from Nvgorod, the village where my grandparents were from in Belarus, and the other was a bag of dirt from that same village," Kushner said.
He said neither sanctions imposed by Democratic former President Barack Obama's administration nor Kushner's business activities were discussed.
Vnesheconombank has been subjected to US economic sanctions since mid-2014 over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Relations between the US and Russia deteriorated under Obama and Trump has said he wants to improve ties with Moscow, at times expressing admiration for Putin.
"Need excuse" to leave meeting
Lawmakers have said they want to hear about a June 2016 meeting involving Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
The younger Trump has released emails that showed he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information from the Russian government about Clinton.
Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort were also at the meeting but Kushner described it as a waste of time and said there was no discussion about the campaign during the time he was there.
"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 did not initially disclose any meetings with Russians on forms he filed to get a government security clearance.
He has since revised those forms several times. He said the forms were initially submitted prematurely in error and omitted all foreign contacts he had had, not just those with Russian officials.
Kushner is also scheduled to address the House intelligence panel on Tuesday.
Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University law school, said Kushner's statement makes the best of a bad situation.
"At best, these meetings make Kushner and others look like chumps," Turley said. "They may be forced to argue they were ham-handed chumps."