WASHINGTON — President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, described himself to Senate investigators on Monday as a political and foreign policy neophyte who met with Russians as part of a hectic and unconventional presidential campaign, not as part of a plot to steer the election.
“All of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” Mr. Kushner told reporters on the White House grounds after two hours behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. “I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did.”
Hours before he traveled to Capitol Hill for his session with the investigators, Mr. Kushner, a senior White House adviser, released a lengthy written statement explaining the purpose of a number of contacts with Russians last year — meetings that have thrust him into the middle of a controversy that has engulfed the early months of the Trump administration.
The decision to release the statement, and to appear voluntarily before Congress, is a clear strategy to try to navigate a political storm. His meetings with a Russian ambassador, lawyer and banker have prompted questions about his honesty, and calls from Democrats to deny him access to classified information. By being the first member of Mr. Trump’s campaign inner circle to speak to congressional investigators, he was able to shape the narrative with his version of a still murky chain of events.
But Monday’s moves were not without legal risk. Though he was not under oath when he spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee, lying to Congress is a federal crime. His public statement was frequently unequivocal, leaving him little room to maneuver if new evidence emerges to contradict his story.
The Justice Department and congressional committees are investigating whether anyone around Mr. Trump conspired with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election, and whether Mr. Trump tried to impede the investigation.
During his public statement on Monday, Mr. Kushner said Mr. Trump won the election because he had a better message and ran a smarter campaign than Hillary Clinton, not because he had any help from Russia.
“Suggesting otherwise ridicules those who voted for him,” Mr. Kushner said. He took no questions from reporters.
Months of reports about repeated contacts last year between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russians have buffeted Mr. Trump’s staff. Administration officials once flatly denied there had been any meetings with Russians during the campaign or transition, only to have journalists discover one meeting after another. This month, The New York Times reported that members of the senior campaign staff, including Mr. Kushner, met in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer on the explicit promise of receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton.
An email to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son and the person who set up the meeting, said the information was part of the Russian government’s campaign to support the elder Mr. Trump.
Mr. Kushner said he was unaware of the promise of damaging information because he did not read the email chain forwarded to him by Donald Trump Jr., titled “Re: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.” He said he arrived at the meeting late and left early, after emailing his assistant asking for an excuse to escape.