Jared Kushner and his attorneys likely did not enjoy something they read when the House Intelligence Committee released its findings on Russian election interference last Thursday. The report, drafted by Chairman Devin Nunes and supported by only GOP members of the Committee, has become yet another instance of a failure of bipartisan investigations on the Hill. Even one of the leading members of the Committee, Republican Trey Gowdy, acknowledged on Fox News Sunday that Americans should “not have confidence in” the report’s conclusion that there was no evidence of Trump campaign collusion and should have confidence in what Mueller’s investigation produces instead. (Gowdy recently announced his retirement from Congress citing his distaste for hyper-partisanism in his line of work.) As expected, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to tweet his chosen highlights of the Committee’s findings. There was plenty for the President to champion. Except.
When Kushner read the report’s “Finding #32” he was surely disappointed. That’s because the Committee’s stated conclusion contradicts Kushner’s written statement to Congress concerning the important June 9 meeting with Russians in Trump Tower. The Committee’s finding states that Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort attended the meeting “where they expected to receive…derogatory information on candidate Clinton from Russian sources.”
That line in the Committee’s findings is generally consistent with what Trump Jr. told Congress he expected to receive at the meeting. It is highly inconsistent with what Kushner told Congress.
Kushner’s written statement to Congress, which his lawyers released publicly, denied that he knew what the June 9th meeting was going to be about. That’s at least the most plausible, if not universal understanding, of what Kushner wrote (read, for example, this line-by-line annotation of Kushner’s statement by former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney Renato Mariotti at Just Security). Even the most charitable reading of Kushner’s statement is that he did not directly and unequivocally state he had no foreknowledge of the meeting’s purpose, but that he nevertheless sought to leave the clear impression, with Congress and the public, that he did not know the purpose of the meeting before attending.
Kushner’s statement, for instance, goes to great lengths to establish that he did not read the contents of the Trump Jr. email setting up the meeting until it was shown to him by his lawyers. For instance, Kushner’s statement to Congress said:
“That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time. As I did with most emails when I was working remotely, I quickly reviewed on my iPhone the relevant message that the meeting would occur at 4:00 PM at his office. Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as ‘Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner.’ No one else was mentioned.”
“I did not read or recall this email exchange before it was shown to me by my lawyers when reviewing documents for submission to the committees.”
“[I]t was typical for me to receive 200 or more emails a day during the campaign. I did not have the time to read every one, especially long emails from unknown senders or email chains to which I was added at some later point in the exchange.”
The contradiction between Kushner’s statement and “Finding #32” is so stark and the Nunes investigation so biased that it is theoretically possible the discrepancy could be boiled down to a drafting error on the part of the Committee—I suppose. Another alternative is that among the forty-four findings, the GOP members did not realize one of these materially differed from Kushner’s specific account.
The implication is fairly clear: there’s a high likelihood Kushner’s submitted statements of fact that the House Committee has determined to be false–perhaps without the GOP committee members’ realizing the contradiction.
The federal crime of intentionally making false statements to Congress is written broadly. It applies to anyone who “knowingly and willfully”:
(1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
(2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.
There is no question that Kushner was seeking to create an understanding that he did not know the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting. As long as the Committee’s finding remains, the burden is on Kushner to explain his statement which he and his lawyers decided to release to the public.