The Russia Connection

What to Make of Jared Kushner's Statement

By Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 4:33 PM

Below is an excerpt of a piece that appears on our new Foreign Policy feed. To read the full article, visit Lawfare@FP.

It is always an important moment the first time in a scandal when we get to hear from the scandal’s subjects — not the allegations against them but their responses to those allegations, not the obligatory comments, no-comments, or denials in the story itself but the subject’s own version of the story. These moments are particularly clarifying when that story comes not in the form of some impulsive reaction — say, an angry presidential tweet — but instead as a carefully prepared presentation, one put together by competent counsel based on an extensive review of the record available to the subject. Such a presentation can be particularly useful when criminal consequences will attach to any knowing lies within it; this can happen either because the subject gives the statement under oath or because he or she gives it under circumstances in which false statements are otherwise barred by federal law.

In such situations, and Jared Kusher’s statement on Monday presents one such situation, we can with reasonable confidence make a few working, though always rebuttable, presumptions:

  • that none of the factual statements contained within it are, to the lawyer’s knowledge anyway, lies;
  • that none of the factual statements contained within it are clearly at odds with the record counsel has reviewed;
  • that the statement constitutes the most favorable construction of the facts possible for the client;
  • and that counsel does not expect any facts to emerge that will render any statement in it provably false.

These are the presumptions with which the careful reader should peruse Kushner’s 11-page statement given today to congressional committees. The document reflects his lawyers’ review of a large volume of emails, phone records, calendar entries, and other documents available to them. It also reflects his memory. It is carefully prepared. And he could face prosecution if any of it is knowingly and intentionally false on a material point.

Kushner’s statement responds more confidently and convincingly on some allegations than on others. And in at least one major area, the statement maintains a conspicuous silence. Given that Kushner’s discussions with the committee on Monday, and others today, were closed, we do not know whether it held up well under questioning. But based on the document alone, here are seven observations about Kushner’s conduct we think are safe to tentatively advance at this stage.