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 at 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 of Facebook ads.”
Russia did more than buy a “couple of Facebook ads,” U.S. investigators have determined. Last year, the 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 United States with the purpose of sowing political discord, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's report into Russian election interference, which Mueller 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.
"All these people thought Trump was going to lose. They all predicted Trump was going to 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 the Mueller 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.”
Asked why the Trump campaign didn't turn down Russian outreach, Kusher said: "In the campaign, we didn't know Russia was doing what they were doing. ... The notion of what they were doing didn't even register to us as being impactful.”
“The media spent so much time focusing on it, and frankly it’s just a big distraction for the country,” he added. “While everyone's losing their mind about the Mueller investigation and Russia collusion, the president's been out there trying to rebalance our trade relationships.”
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 nine 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."
Read more from Yahoo News: