President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner said that he believes the investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election are more damaging to democracy than the Russian interference itself, which Kushner characterized as a "few Facebook ads."
Kushner spoke at the Time 100 Summit in New York on Tuesday, just a few days after Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Although Mueller concluded that the Trump campaign did not conspire to influence the election with Russian agents, he outlined several ties between campaign officials and individuals associated with the Russian government.
Kushner said that the numerous investigations into potential misconduct, including those undertaken by congressional committees, was a distraction from more important topics. He also criticized members of the press for reporting on potential collusion.
"I think the investigations and all the speculation has had a much harsher effect on democracy than a few Facebook ads," Kushner said, referring to the social media campaign by the Russian government intended to sow discord in American politics during the 2016 election. The Russian government also hacked the emails of prominent members of Hillary Clinton's campaign, and disseminated them through outlets such as WikiLeaks, according to Mueller's report.
The report also described in detail how Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with an individual with ties to the Russian government on the assumption that this person had information that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. Kushner denied that this event had any impact on the campaign, and said that then-candidate Trump was more focused on where to campaign than anything else.
"The notion of what they were doing didn't even register to us as impactful," Kushner said. He also said that critics of the president were acting like a "Monday morning quarterback" seeking to pin Mr. Trump's surprise victory in the 2016 election on Russian interference.
Mr. Trump praised Kushner's performance at the Time event. "Great interview by Jared. Nice to have extraordinarily smart people serving our Country!" he tweeted Tuesday.
Intelligence analysts say the Russian governmentand is likely to try to do so again in 2020.