The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Kushner says Russia investigations are ‘way more harmful’ than Russian election interference

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner characterized election interference by Russia as “a couple Facebook ads” on April 23. (Video: TIME)

White House senior adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner said Tuesday that investigations into election interference by Russia have been “way more harmful” than the interference itself, which he characterized as “a couple Facebook ads.”

In a rare public appearance, Kushner spoke about the special counsel and congressional investigations at the Time 100 Summit in New York.

“Quite frankly, the whole thing’s just a big distraction for the country,” Kushner said. “You look at, you know, what Russia did, buying some Facebook ads, to try to sow dissent . . . and it’s a terrible thing, but I think the investigations and all the speculation that happened for the past two years has had a much harsher impact on democracy than a couple Facebook ads.”

Jared Kushner dismisses concerns raised by White House whistleblower on security clearances

Kushner, who was heavily involved in Trump’s campaign, said it spent far more on Facebook ads in a matter of hours than the Russians did.

“So if you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, I think the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country,” he said.

Kushner’s assessment marked his first public comments since the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report last week.

Mueller’s report concluded that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election “in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

The interference included both a social media campaign that favored Trump and disparaged Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the hacking of computers maintained by allies of Clinton and the subsequent releases of stolen documents.

The report did not find sufficient evidence to bring charges of criminal conspiracy with Russia against Trump or anyone associated with his campaign. It did not offer a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Attorney General William P. Barr later concluded that there was not sufficient evidence for obstruction of justice, but House Democrats are continuing to pursue that issue.

When asked Tuesday why the Trump campaign did not reject Russian attempts to get close to the campaign, Kushner said, “We didn’t know that Russia was doing what they were doing.”

“The notion of what they were doing didn’t even register to us as being impactful,” he said, adding: “When the whole notion of the Russian collusion narrative came up, I was the first person to say I’m happy to participate with any investigations. I thought the whole thing was kind of nonsense, to be honest with you.”

Shortly after Kushner’s interview, which was streamed live, Trump took to Twitter to praise his son-in-law.

“Great interview by Jared,” he wrote. “Nice to have extraordinarily smart people serving our Country!”