Jared Kushner: Russia investigations 'more harmful' than 'a couple of Facebook ads'

NEW YORK — Jared Kushner on Tuesday said he believes the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election have been “way more harmful to our democracy” than the interference itself.

“If you look what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent, it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, said during the inaugural Time 100 summit here. “But I think the investigations and the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads.”

Russia did more than buy a “couple Facebook ads,” U.S. investigators have determined. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities for allegedly carrying out an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 election. The Russian operatives allegedly used fake social media accounts, created false advertisements and even traveled to the United States in an effort to support Trump’s White House bid — and to disparage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Kremlin-linked troll farm Internet Research Agency also organized "dozens" of political rallies in the U.S. with the purpose of sowing political discord, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian election interference, which he called "sweeping and systematic."

Facebook recently acknowledged that at least two networks linked to Russia spent about $160,000 on ads to promote its disinformation campaign. Kushner, who was an adviser to the Trump campaign and considered the architect of its social media operation, scoffed at the figure.

“I spent $160,000 every three hours during the campaign,” he said.

Sounding like his father-in-law, Kushner said the investigations into Russian interference in the election were an excuse by Trump's opponents to try to explain his improbable victory.

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Ivanka Trump, the daughter of and assistant to President Donald Trump, arrives with her husband Jared Kushner to the opening of the Group of 20 summit at the Costa Salguero Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Leaders from the Group of 20 industrialized nations are meeting in Buenos Aires for two days starting today. (AP Photo/Gustavo Garello)
TOPSHOT - White House adviser and US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump (C) and her husband Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (R), arrive at Costa Salguero in Buenos Aires to attend the G20 Leaders' Summit, on November 30, 2018. - G20 powers open two days of summit talks on Friday after a stormy buildup dominated by tensions with Russia and US President Donald Trump's combative stance on trade and climate fears. (Photo by Javier Gonzalez Toledo / AFP) (Photo credit should read JAVIER GONZALEZ TOLEDO/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump pose for a picture after Kushner received the Order of the Aztec Eagle from Pena Nieto before the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. Mexico Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
White House advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump arrive for the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
White House advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump arrive for the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
White House advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are welcomed by Argentina's first lady Juliana Awada upon arriving at the Colon Theatre for a gala in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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"All these people thought Trump was gonna lose. They all predicted Trump was gonna lose. They were wrong," Kushner said. "The American electorate in this great democratic system chose the opposite. And I think that instead of saying, ‘Oh wait, we got it wrong,’ they said, ‘Well, maybe it was Russia.’ And I think we’ve spent two years going through that nonsense."

Kushner, who appears multiple times in Mueller’s report, downplayed a now infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting he attended with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on Clinton.

“We ran a very untraditional campaign,” Kushner said. “We had a lot of outsiders coming in.”

He also cited a text he sent during the meeting as proof the campaign did not get any dirt on Clinton.

“Lindsey Graham told me I had the best text message in the history of text messages when I was in that crazy Trump Tower meeting and I said ‘get me the hell out of here’ basically,” Kushner said. “It’s a meeting that if it hadn’t come up, I would’ve never thought about it again.”

He added: “The media spent so much time focusing on it, and frankly it’s just a big distraction for the country.”

President Trump, who is in Washington, apparently approved of Kushner’s performance.

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

On Monday, Trump tried to undermine the findings in the Mueller report by falsely suggesting no one close to him cooperated with the special counsel.

"Isn’t it amazing that the people who were closest to me, by far, and knew the Campaign better than anyone, were never even called to testify before Mueller," the president tweeted.

Kushner said he spent 9 hours being interviewed by Mueller's team.

"When the whole notion of the Russia collusion narrative came up, I was the first person to say, 'happy to participate in any investigations,'" Kushner said. "I thought the whole thing was nonsense."

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