Grab the Popcorn! Jared Kushner Just Blamed Donald Trump Jr. for Russian Lawyer Meeting
The Wheels on Kushner’s Bus Go Round and Round Donald Trump Jr.
Jared Kushner testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday morning for the first time since the New York Times‘s bombshell revelation that Donald Trump Jr. had set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer offering Russian government-supplied dirt on Hillary Clinton. Kushner, who attended the meeting, cut a deal with the committee to make a statement behind closed doors. Even before the meeting commenced, the Washington Post was agog in its reporting, because Kushner’s publicly released opening statement is a classic example of throwing someone under the bus. In this case, the victim of bus tires is his own brother-in-law, Donald Jr.
Here is Kushner’s opening statement:
“In June 2016, my brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. asked if I was free to stop by a meeting on June 9 at 3:00 p.m. The campaign was headquartered in the same building as his office in Trump Tower, and it was common for each of us to swing by the other’s meetings when requested. He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. 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 arrived at the meeting a little late. When I got there, the person who has since been identified as a Russian attorney was talking about the issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children. I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, 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.”
“I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently. 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. No part of the meeting I attended included anything about the campaign, there was no follow up to the meeting that I am aware of, I do not recall how many people were there (or their names), and I have no knowledge of any documents being offered or accepted. Finally, after seeing the email, I disclosed this meeting prior to it being reported in the press on a supplement to my security clearance form, even if that was not required as meeting the definitions of the form.”
The Post aptly observed that
“Kushner’s statement takes exceptional care to separate him, with scalpel-like precision, from the now-notorious meeting that Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer.”
Kushner’s effort to surgically excise Donald Jr.’s culpability from himself begins with his claim that “That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time.” This is extremely convenient. “I didn’t read the whole email” operates on the same wavelength as “I don’t recall,” that time honored Washington tradition of the cornered lackey, the only weasel phrase impossible to disprove that sounds slightly better than pleading the Fifth.
But it also raises a pair of mutually exclusive questions. Is Kushner lying? Or is he completely incompetent, and by extension, was the entire Trump campaign an incompetent clown car careening well beyond the bounds of clearly demarcated guard rails? Either Kushner actually knew he was meeting with the Russians for some dope Russian info, or he just did whatever Don Jr. told him to do without reading the details to the point of walking straight into a career-ending trap. Either way, it is now clear in hindsight, that the Trump 2016 campaign was being largely run by Trump’s son and Trump’s son-in-law, and even the third-rate advisers he summoned after claiming that his brain was his top adviser were mere window dressing.
It’s more subtle, but Kushner’s claim that he arrived to the meeting late and they were already talking about adoptions is another wheel on the bus that goes crunch and crunch on Don Jr. Kushner is implying that the meeting may very well have included a historic felony, but he wasn’t in the room when it occurred.
Related: Check Out Manafort’s Hilariously Dumb Excuse for Going to Russian Mob Lawyer’s Treason Meeting
Incidentally, Kushner’s excuse sounds a lot like the excuse offered by Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting. In July when news of the meeting broke, a friend of Manafort told Politico that
“…the campaign manager hadn’t read all the way to the bottom of the email exchanges on his phone and that he didn’t even know who he was meeting with when he attended the 20 to 30-minute session.”
No one read anything, and no one knew anything. Everyone jumped off the bridge because Donald Jr. told them to. Who was running for president–Donald Trump or Donald Trump Jr.?
Only Junior is going to be forced to take the rap because he wrote “I love it” in response to the offer of “sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump.” There’s no running away from that. But that raises the question, if this issue starts coming to a head legally, is Trump going to allow his son to be the fall guy for the meeting in order to protect himself? Will his son go to prison to protect his dad? Is this why Trump was reportedly asking advisers about his power to pardon his family?
This could approach the level of Greek tragedy if Junior decides it’s not worth it. When Trump divorced Ivana following a high profile affair with Marla Maples, Donald Jr. reportedly wouldn’t speak to his father for over a year. It’s not clear how father and son made amends, but it’s not hard to imagine that a load of cash was involved. What if Junior is still nursing that old grudge and decides he’s definitely not going to the clink for the man who terrorized his mother for months on end? What if Trump’s own son is the one who finally flips? Now that would be some good reality TV.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master’s degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.