Senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner suggested Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was more harmful to the US than Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In his first public comments since a redacted version of Mueller’s report was released last week, Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, downplayed and twisted the conclusions of the report, which found there was a massive effort by Russia to manipulate the election via social media.
“You look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try and sow dissent and do it, it’s a terrible thing,” Kushner said in an interview at Time 100 Summit in response to a question about the Mueller investigation.
“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,” he continued.
In the redacted version of the Mueller report, the special counsel explained that the investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia found that members of the Trump campaign knew they would benefit from Russia’s illegal actions to influence the election, but didn’t take criminal steps to help.
“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 the election interference activities,” the report says.
Asked why the Trump campaign didn’t reject Russian attempts to get close to the campaign, Kushner said Tuesday that “we didn’t know that Russia was doing what they were doing.”
“The notion of what they were doing didn’t even register to us as being impactful,” he said.
“When the whole notion of the Russian collusion narrative came up, I was the first person to say I’m happy to participate with any investigations. I thought the whole thing was kind of nonsense, to be honest with you,” Kushner continued.
The White House senior adviser also downplayed the role Russian social media efforts played in electing his father-in-law.
Among other findings in the report was how a Russian troll group, the Internet Research Agency, engaged in a years-long campaign to sow discord in the US – and eventually to support Trump’s election – by creating and maintaining fake social media personas and activist organizations designed to look like they were run by real Americans.
According to the Mueller report, the IRA purchased over 3,500 advertisements on Facebook, and the expenditures totaled approximately $100,000. The fake social media personas and activist organizations the IRA created reached tens of millions of persons.
“I think they said they spent about $160,000,” Kushner said Tuesday. “I spent about $160,000 on Facebook every three hours during the campaign.”
This story has been updated.
CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Donie O’Sullivan contributed to this report.