Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, on Tuesday claimed that the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been “way more harmful to our country” than any Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“I thought the whole thing was nonsense to be honest,” Kushner said of the two-year investigation, which concluded with the release of a 448-page report released last week. “It’s been very, very thoroughly investigated.”
The findings, submitted to Congress by Attorney General William Barr, detailed Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election in support of Trump, in addition to at least ten potential instances of obstruction of justice by the president.
Despite the embarrassing—and potentially criminal—details plainly described in the report, Kushner said at the TIME 100 Summit in New York that he believes the investigation has “been just a big distraction for the country.”
“You look at Russia did: buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent. It’s 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 Facebook ads,” Kushner continued. “If you look at the magnitude of what they did and what they accomplished, the ensuing investigations have been way more harmful to our country.”
Of course, Russia’s interference in the U.S. election wasn’t just “a couple Facebook ads,” as Kushner dismissively characterized it. The Mueller report described how Russia’s efforts to undermine the election “demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.” And beyond using social-media platforms to sow discord, Russian operatives engaged in cyber-espionage.
TIME senior White House correspondent Brian Bennett, who interviewed Kushner at the Tuesday event, said as much: “Well, it was a lot more than Facebook ads. There were Russian operatives organizing real events during the campaign, so it had a real-world impact on their social-media campaign.”
“Not only that,” Bennett added, “but Russia was actively hacking and stealing documents that they then systematically released at certain key points during the campaign. One of the biggest things I think that doesn’t sit well with the public is: Why didn’t the trump campaign openly say ‘Russia, we don’t need your help. We don’t want your help. Please stop.’”
Kushner replied: “The one thing the Mueller report was conclusive on is that there was no coordination or collusion with the Trump campaign [and Russia]. Everything the president’s been saying and I’ve been saying for two years has been fully authenticated.”
The TIME 100 Summit, which showcases several of the magazine’s picks for its 2019 list of the most influential people in the world, will also feature an interview with Trump’s nemesis, Hillary Clinton, whose campaign emails were among those stolen by Russian operatives.
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