Those concerned about foreign interference in U.S. elections continue to have a hard time under the reign of President Donald Trump and his associates — to put it lightly. In an interview that premiered this weekend on Axios on HBO, Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner completely dismissed the significance of Russian efforts to help the Trump campaign during 2016 and even suggested that if those efforts popped up again, he would not necessarily alert federal authorities, even with the benefit of hindsight applied to the 2016 situation.
Kushner’s part in the Russian help scheme centers around a meeting he participated in at Trump Tower in 2016 with Donald Trump Jr. and Kremlin-affiliated lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who they’d been promised would bring dirt from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.
Journalist Jonathan Swan had asked why Kushner didn’t get in touch with federal authorities about the initial email he got in 2016 chronicling those Russian efforts to help Trump, to which the man of infamously many roles shared:
‘We’re in a place now where people are playing Monday morning quarterback and they’re being so self-righteous. Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign. I get an email that says show up at 4 instead of 3 to a meeting that I had been told about earlier that I didn’t know what the hell it was about. I show up at the meeting, I stay for fifteen minutes, it’s a clown show… I never would have thought about that meeting again. Had there been something that actually was nefarious at that meeting that came up, maybe we would have done something different, but the reality is, is that the meeting was a total waste of time.’
He asserted to Swan that he didn’t even scroll up in the email chain with that note for him to show up at 4 instead of 3 and see the origin of what he was meeting about.
The journalist cut in to point out that the situation wasn’t involving some guy off the street corner who’d offered to help the Trump campaign. Rather, the offer for help that Kushner engaged with via showing up at that 2016 meeting was coming from the Russian government, which has carried out decades of hostility against the United States and its allies around the world and whose connection was suggested in the subject line of the email Kushner says he didn’t read.
Kushner — whose many roles include directing Trump administration foreign policy — still didn’t see an issue, telling Swan after he asked whether he’d get in touch with the FBI if he got a similar email today:
‘I don’t know. It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is is that we were not given anything that was salacious.’
Although others like Donald Trump Jr. have also pointed to the fact that the meeting was a supposed dud as evidence for their claims it’s not a big deal, as Swan pointed out right then and there, it doesn’t change the nature of the situation. Veselnitskaya could have shown up with a birthday cake and party hats and Kushner and Trump Jr. would still have gone down as having met with a Russian government affiliated lawyer who they were told would bring them dirt from that government on Hillary Clinton.
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