Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Kushner explained to him that there was not. “I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” he explains. “and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration.”Kushner said he declined two attempts by Kislyak in December for a follow-up, eventually sending his assistant instead. It was there that Kislyak recommended that Kushner sit down with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Kremlin-linked Russian bank. All that was exchanged, he said, was a humble piece of art and a bag of dirt from the Belarus village where his grandparents were born.Kushner is so rarely heard from in public that when he spoke, briefly, at a tech conference earlier this summer, many people joked they didn’t know what his voice sounded like.“There were no specific policies discussed,” he said. “We had no discussion about the sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration. At no time was there any discussion about my companies, business transactions, real estate projects, loans, banking arrangements or any private business of any kind.”The Putin-linked bank, however, has provided a different explanation. The Washington Post reported that the bank claimed the meeting was part of a new business strategy and that it was held with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business, Kushner Companies.As for the confusion about his security clearance forms, he blames the omissions on an assistant. Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report. Also On POLITICO Meet the real Jared Kushner By David Freedlander FOURTH ESTATE If Donald Trump Jr. sinks, who goes down with him? By Jack Shafer “[People at my New York office] sent an email to my assistant in Washington, communicating that the changes to one particular section were complete; my assistant interpreted that message as meaning that the entire form was completed,” he writes. “At that point, the form was a rough draft and still had many omissions including not listing any foreign government contacts and even omitted the address of my father-in-law (which was obviously well known). Because of this miscommunication, my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.”But lawyers cast doubt on his hurried explanation of the gaps on his security clearance forms. “The idea he’d have his staff fill out the questionnaire is beyond belief itself,” said Nick Akerman, a former assistant Watergate prosecutor, noting the process requires a physical signature. “Someone on this committee has to go through this point by point and take him through this whole process.”Kushner is so rarely heard from in public that when he spoke, briefly, at a tech conference earlier this summer, many people joked they didn’t know what his voice sounded like. “It has been my practice not to appear in the media or leak information in my own defense,” Kushner notes in his testimony. But it won’t be his last time on the stand.Kushner, who will face a second grilling by the House on Tuesday, has been preparing for both sessions with his lawyers. He claims, at the end of his lengthy statement: “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form, above and beyond what is required.”While Kushner and his aides may be hoping to make him a less juicy target than other former Trump officials under investigation, like Manafort and Trump, Jr., the statement is only the beginning of the story.“The key,” said Peter Zeidenberg, who served on the Justice Department’s special prosecution team during the Valerie Plame Wilson CIA leak investigation, “will be how this story holds up to a thorough cross-examination.” Kushner claims he had no idea what he was walking into. An email from his brother-in-law reminds him of the time change to 4 p.m. for the Trump Tower meeting, and Kushner writes that it was not abnormal to pop into each other’s offices for meetings. “That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time,” he writes. “Documents confirm my memory that this was calendared as “Meeting: Don Jr.| Jared Kushner. No one else was mentioned.”The meeting, where Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Trump, Jr., and campaign operative Paul Manafort and four other people were discussing Russian adoptions and were gathered to exchange information about Hillary Clinton, was outside of his purview, he writes.“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,’ Kushner writes. “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.”His third and final contact with a potential Russian agent, he claims, was a hoax email he received from a hacker trying to obtain Trump’s tax returns.During the transition, he said, his only meeting with Kislyak lasted 23 minutes.“I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations,” he says of the meeting where Kushner reportedly tried to set up a backchannel of communication. It was Kislyak, Kushner writes, that brought up U.S. policy in Syria, and said “he wanted to convey information from what he called ‘his generals,’” Kushner writes. “He said he wanted to provide information that would help inform the new administration. He said the generals could not easily come to the U.S. to convey this information and he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation.” Kushner reiterated the message in a brief statement to reporters gathered outside the White House after testifying for more than two hours to the Senate panel. He took no questions.But the remarks, designed to look fully transparent and take Kushner out of the Russia investigation spotlight, appeared to raise more questions about Kushner’s judgment than it answered.To wit: the former real estate developer explained the glaring omissions on his security clearance forms — which did not originally include several meetings with Russian officials that have since come to light — as an honest mistake made by his assistant at the time. And like others in the Trump orbit who met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Inauguration Day, Kushner also said he had trouble remembering the official after their first brief, previously unreported encounter at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. — the same event where Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with, but didn’t remember, the Russian ambassador.Overall, his account of events “still feels incomplete, it was not fulsome,” Evelyn Farkas, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, said of the testimony. “I still wonder exactly what he discussed with Kislyak” in his subsequent conversations to the Mayflower meeting, she said. But more importantly, she added, Kushner’s testimony provides no explanation for why he was cavalier in his interactions with Russians after intelligence community reports that Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. election.“After that,” Farkas said, “why not alert the FBI? It doesn’t exhibit good judgment, or concerns for national security or the integrity of our democracy to be taking those meetings with the Russians.”The testimony also raised questions about how a man who blamed multiple foul-ups on sloppy paperwork, unread emails and misunderstandings, is overseeing such a vast portfolio as he does in the White House. As a top West Wing official, Kushner’s situation does not appear to have changed much since the campaign: he still operates with a bare-bones staff, little bureaucracy, and impossible burdens (see: overseeing the Middle East peace process while also innovating the entire federal government). In his first public defense of his meetings with Russian officials during Donald Trump’s campaign and transition, Jared Kushner on Monday presented his encounters with those operatives as innocent interactions, according to testimony submitted to Senate investigators.In an 11-page opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is part of the ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, Kushner — now a senior White House adviser — attempted to exonerate himself, writing: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.”Instead, the powerful son-in-law painted a picture of himself as a loyal, overworked, under-experienced senior adviser to his father-in-law during a novice campaign that was never staffed up to win. “I am not a person who has sought the spotlight,” Kushner says in his opening statement, according to a copy provided to POLITICO. But he explains that after Trump clinched the Republican nomination, his father-in-law asked Kushner to be the point of contact for foreign governments, and he was in touch with emissaries from 15 different countries, including Russia. To put his hectic life and schedule into context — and explain away his presence at a meeting where a Russian lawyer was hawking opposition research about Hillary Clinton — he also writes that he typically received about 200 emails a day during the campaign, and often didn’t read through every exchange.In his opening testimony, Kushner walks through each of his four meetings with the Russians, downplaying all of them to brief, pro forma interactions that lead to no follow-ups.Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak leaves his farewell reception in Washington, DC | Alex Wong/Getty Images“I had no ongoing relationship with the Ambassador before the election, and had limited knowledge about him then,” he writes of Kislyak, with whom he reportedly tried to set up a communications backchannel during the transition. “In fact, on November 9, the day after the election, I could not even remember the name of the Russian Ambassador.”Trying to prove his point, he adds: “when the campaign received an email purporting to be an official note of congratulations from President Putin, I was asked how we could verify it was real. To do so I thought the best way would be to ask the only contact I recalled meeting from the Russian government, which was the Ambassador I had met months earlier, so I sent an email asking Mr. [Demetri] Simes [the publisher of a foreign policy magazine], ‘What is the name of the Russian ambassador?’”Kushner also responds to a Reuters report that he had two follow-up calls with Kislyak. “A comprehensive review of my landline and cell phone records from the time does not reveal those calls,” he says of the reported calls in April and August of 2016.His second interaction with a Russian official was the now infamous Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, that June.