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Kushner to interns: Trump team too disorganized to collude with Russia

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 1, 2017

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump speaks during their meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump speaks during their meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
By Jenna Mclaughlin Washington Post

Donald Trump’s election team could not have colluded with Russia because they were barely talking to each other, according to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top White House adviser.

“They thought we colluded, but we couldn’t even collude with our local offices,” Kushner told congressional interns during a private talk at the Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium on Monday afternoon.

Kusher’s meeting with the interns had been rescheduled from two weeks ago, when he had to appear to give testimony to Congress about the Russia investigation.

A source provided a copy of written notes on Kushner’s talk and question-and-answer session to Foreign Policy.

For investigators attempting to determine whether Trump’s associates knowingly worked with Russia to interfere with the election, a defense claiming chaos and confusion might be the key difference between criminal behavior and incompetence.

This month, news broke that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer tied to the Kremlin to discuss “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. But Trump Jr. says the meeting wasn’t valuable, and Kushner later said he didn’t even read the emails about the meeting, and left early.

President Donald Trump has said “anyone would take that meeting,” which was “opposition research.”

After his talk, Kushner answered questions from interns on issues ranging from the investigation into the campaign’s potential ties to Russia to his SF-86 clearance forms.

“We don’t know where it’s going,” he said, when asked about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaigns possible collusion with Russia.

Kushner also downplayed his failure to report more than a hundred instances of foreign travel and contacts with foreign officials on his security clearance forms, which he updated twice to include meetings with Russian officials. “There are 127 pages on the SF-86, but there are only two you guys have to worry about,” he said. “Make sure you guys keep track of where you travel.”

He said he didn’t track contacts because he didn’t expect to get into politics, though he worked on his father-in-law’s campaign from the early stages.

He also bragged about the release of an Egyptian-American charity worker who had been trapped in Cairo. The worker, Aya Hijazi, was freed when President Trump publicly embraced autocratic President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.

Kushner said they made a “great deal” with al-Sissi, who had “basically destroyed the Muslim Brotherhood,” by taking him aside and asking for a better arrangement.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before the lecture, the intern director warned those present not to leak the contents of the speech, which was given off the record. The director had apparently heard rumors that attendees wanted to livestream the event, or hand off notes to their congressional offices to leak to journalists.

“I’m a lot more comfortable talking to you guys today ’cause there isn’t any press,” Kushner said.

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