Trump team too disorganised to collude with Russians, Kushner tells interns
DONALD Trump's son-in-law has told a group of congressional interns that the presidential campaign could not have colluded with Russia because the team was too dysfunctional and disorganised to coordinate with a foreign government.
The remarks by Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, came in response to a question about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign worked with Moscow.
ForeignPolicy.com first reported Kushner's remarks, which were intended to be off the record.
"They thought we colluded, but we couldn't even collude with our local offices," Mr Kushner said, according to the website.
A Democratic congressional aide knowledgeable of the meeting confirmed the accuracy of the remarks and others that Kushner made.
Mr Kushner also told the interns that the White House does not know where Mr Mueller's inquiry is headed.
He said he did not think he would embark on a career in government and politics after President Trump's victorious White House bid so he did not carefully track his contacts with foreign officials, which is required information on a security clearance application.
His meeting with the interns is part of a regular series in which guest speakers meet with them each year.
The organisers of the event initially asked the interns to write down their questions and Mr Kushner would randomly select them to answer.
But the congressional aide said Mr Kushner insisted on taking live questions and did not hesitate to answer them.
Mr Kushner met privately last week at the Capitol with members of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
He acknowledged four meetings with Russians during and after Mr Trump's White House bid and insisted that he had "nothing to hide".
Mr Kushner said: "All of my actions were proper."
Hours before meeting privately with the committees, Mr Kushner released an 11-page statement that detailed four contacts with Russians during Mr Trump's campaign and transition.
He described each contact as either insignificant or routine and he said the meetings, along with several others, were omitted from his security clearance form because of an aide's error.
Mr Kushner cast himself as a political novice learning in real time to juggle "thousands of meetings and interactions" in a fast-paced campaign.
Meanwhile, The White House says President Donald Trump has not yet signed a sanctions bill that landed on his desk last week, which includes new measures against Russia.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that the president "has not" signed it, but "he will".
She said: "There's a review process, a legal process."
A White House statement on Friday said President Trump "has now reviewed the final version and, based on its responsiveness to his negotiations, approves the bill and intends to sign it".
The package of stiff financial sanctions against Russia passed Congress with overwhelming support.
Moscow responded to the White House statement last weekend by ordering a reduction in the number of US diplomats in Russia.