Below is a condensed and lightly-edited version of Seth Abramson’s analysis of Jared Kushner’s 7-page public statement about his role in the Russian collusion investigation. Abramson is a criminal defense att’y. and ass’t. prof. of law at the University of New Hampshire.
Kushner says that — across multiple meetings — Russian ambassador Kislyak never mentioned Crimea or sanctions (Russia’s top issues) *once*. Yet he raised that issue with *every other Trump aide* he spoke to, including Sessions, Gordon, and Page. Kushner out-ranks any of them. While theoretically possible, it’d be *bizarre* for Kislyak to say *nothing* on Russia’s top policy priority in speaking to Trump’s son. (Read Kushner’s full statement to the Senate Intel Committee: http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/24/politics/jared-kushner-statement-russia-2016-election/index.html
Kislyak getting in-person access to the President-elect’s son-in-law on December 1 was extraordinary. He wouldn’t discuss *only* Syria. While Kushner denies the Reuters report saying he had *multiple* still-undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak, it’s a *very* weak denial. The May Reuters report was based on *seven* U.S. government sources. Read the full story here: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-fbi-kushner-exclusive-idUSKBN18N018. Kushner merely says he can’t remember those calls. He is not flatly denying them because the evidence they were made is *overwhelming*.
The calls matter because they suggest a) Kushner invited Kislyak to breach international protocol and attend Trump’s “Mayflower Speech,”(1) and They *also* suggest b) the December meeting was possibly at Kushner’s request and on topics Kushner forecast to Kislyak — not just Syria. There’s every reason to think the Trump campaign — and Kushner, given that he organized the event — invited Kislyak to the Mayflower Hotel.
Even if Dmitri (Center for the National Interest) invited Kislyak and *never told the Trump campaign* who’d attend, we have a problem. If Kislyak were simply a guest of the CNI, there is *no reason whatsoever* for political aides to Donald Trump to be at that VIP event. Indeed, we can’t even say Trump himself was a “VIP,” inasmuch as his campaign had set up the whole affair at the Center the day before. Remember, up until the day before the speech, Trump was supposed to speak at the National Press Club. *He* moved his speech to the CNI. So either (a) Jared invited Kislyak to the NPC early in April and then had someone call Kislyak to tell him to come to the CNI instead, or (b) the Trump campaign found out Kislyak was going to the CNI, so they *cancelled* at the NPC and *invited themselves* to the CNI.
In either case, there is *no explanation* for Sessions, Manafort, Kushner, and other Trump aides attending the VIP event at the CNI. So when Kushner admits chatting with Kislyak at the VIP event and saying — in effect — listen up, *this is our policy*, it’s extraordinary. In campaigns, it’s “OK” to have a bizarre pro-Russia policy agenda. It’s *not* OK to make promises to foreign agents about that agenda. Kushner should *never* have been at that VIP event. Kislyak should *never* have been at that VIP event. Don’t let Kushner normalize it.
So: Kushner admits to Kislyak contact in April/November but implies seven officials are lying in saying he called him in those months also.
As for the “Trump/Agalarov Summit” in summer 2016, Kushner makes every — legally speaking — “self-serving statement” he could possibly make. Of *course* he claims he never read the email chain. It’s nearly impossible to prove what someone read or didn’t, so why not say that? As long as Kushner sent no emails about the meeting — which he *wouldn’t* have — or got rid of any emails he did, he’s “in the clear” here. But Kushner needs a “self-serving statement” to explain his presence at the meeting — which is, of course, easily provable — so he has one. Did it really take over ten minutes of sitting in a meeting about “Russian adoptions” for Kushner to decide he didn’t need to be there? Either way, his text to his secretary created documentation he (may have) left the meeting — suggesting he knew he needed a paper trail.
Is it possible that he was just trying to get out of the meeting? Yes. But he’d have acted the *same* if this were a collusive meeting. As a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator, I’m saying that that text is neither inculpatory [implying blame/guilt] *nor* exculpatory [clearing blame/guilt]. I’ll note that sending a text after 10 minutes *doesn’t* mean you left then. And “not recalling” any docs doesn’t mean there were none.
Above all, please remember this: Kushner promised he would do anything he possibly could to help out the Senate Intelligence Committee. Instead he (a) refused to testify publicly, which they wanted; (b) refused to testify under oath, which they wanted; and © refused to talk to the full Committee rather than just their *staff*, which was perhaps the most preposterous of the three demands he made.
And what did he give those Senate staffers? A bunch of “I don’t recall” excuses and some non-exculpatory details — don’t be fooled.
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(1) When I say the “Mayflower Speech” was “at the CNI” of course I mean a venue controlled — on that day — by CNI, not the National Press Club. There’s no evidence the NPC was willing to host a VIP hour [that] ambassadors from hostile nations breached international protocol to attend. At the NPC, the NPC (not the CNI) would’ve technically been the host. At the Mayflower, CNI was the host. They could [do] what they wanted. So, the CNI *had* to have set up the VIP event at the Mayflower *the day before* — when they learned Trump had *cancelled* the NPC event. In other words, Trump’s campaign precipitated the very VIP event at the Mayflower *neither it nor the Russians* should have attended.
Don’t forget Kushner makes demands of the Intel Committee, as he’s on the hook for the *felony* of making false statements on an SF-86. In the law, it’s almost impossible to imagine defendant dead-to-rights on a “false statement” felony refusing to testify under oath. Had Kushner testified publicly under oath to the full Committee, he’d be saying the SF-86 thing was a mistake. Instead, he acts shady. Media must remember: self-serving statements made by defendants *must* be reported as such, not as simply “facts” about what happened.
If you delete the self-serving statements and non-inculpatory/exculpatory data from Kushner’s statement, what do you have? *Nothing*. I’m *not* spinning a theory about Kushner here. I’m saying this *is* how a criminal attorney and investigator looks at his statement.
Here’s a statement (h/t @kylegriffin1) from Senator Wyden (D-OR) of the Senate Intel Committee about Kushner’s letter to the Senate: https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/889505631320801281