WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner said Tuesday that the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election have done more harm to American democracy than any action by the Kremlin.
"I thought the whole thing was kind of nonsense, to be honest with you," Kushner said during an interview at the 2019 TIME 100 Summit. "Quite frankly, the whole thing's just a big distraction for the country."
Kushner said Russia's effort to "sew dissent" on social media was a "terrible thing, but I think the investigations and all of 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."
In contrast to Kushner's dismissive description of Russia's activities, the redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's 448-page report that was made public on Thursday said Russia "interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion."
Kushner said he spent more on Facebook ads every three hours during the campaign than the roughly $100,000 allegedly spent in total by Russia.
"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.
But the advertising money spent by Russia was a minor element in a social media campaign that included hundred of accounts, which Facebook said were used to make 80,000 posts reaching as many as 126 million people.
Mueller's report also said Russia's effort to sway the election in Trump's favor included the use of military intelligence operatives who stole emails from Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign officials.
"In the campaign, we didn't know that Russia was doing what they were doing," Kushner said when asked about the hacking activities. Although at a rally in July of 2016 – in what he later said was a joke – Trump encouraged Russia to obtain 30,000 emails Hillary Clinton was said to have deleted from her personal server.
Kushner said he was focused on the campaign's compilation of voter data and the "notion of what they were doing didn't even register to us as being impactful."
Mueller's report also "identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign."
The report said those contacts "consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations."
When asked why the campaign did not rebuff those offers and if he now regretted those contacts with Russians, Kushner said many people played "Monday morning quarterback" with those contacts.
Kushner said he would not even have remembered "that crazy meeting in Trump Tower" where he, Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign officials met with Russians promising dirt on Clinton had it not been for all the media attention.
"We ran a very untraditional campaign and we had a lot of outsiders coming in and in the beginning," Kushner said. And "everything was unusual at that time."
But he stressed that he was more than willing to cooperate with investigators "when the whole notion of the Russia collision narrative came up."
"I think that everything I said has now proven to be true," Kushner said.
"The one thing the Mueller report was very conclusive on was there was absolutely no coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign," he said. "Everything that the president's been saying, everything that I've been saying for two years has now been fully authenticated."
"Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities," reads Mueller's conclusion on the question of collusion.
The report also cautions that "a statement that the investigation did not establish particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts."
The president praised his son-in-law's statements on Twitter.
"Great interview by Jared. Nice to have extraordinarily smart people serving our Country!" he wrote.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jared Kushner says investigations 'more harmful to our country' than anything Russia did