Jared Kushner, senior adviser to the president, has stated, after his closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers, “I did not collude with Russia.”
Do you remember when you were a little kid, and you did something wrong (broke a fancy glass; accidentally deleted a work file off your parents’ computer; failed a math test) and you had the rest of the afternoon to figure out a good-enough lie to tell to your parents when they got home?
And when they got home, you totally blew the secret because you told the lie in its shiny, well-packaged entirety before your parents even had a chance to discover what you had accidentally done. “And that’s why I failed that test,” you said, vibrating with your lie.
Your parents gave you a long, measured look before calling you on your shit. And even as you were telling it, you knew that they wouldn’t buy it. The truth is weird and messy and doesn’t make sense. Lies, especially lies that you’ve had enough time to concoct, are too clean.
That’s what I was thinking about while reading a CNN article about Jared Kushner’s closed-session meeting with Senate intelligence staffers. For every weird occurrence (the multiple revisions he had to do on his SF-86 form—the questionnaire required when obtaining security clearance—or the meetings with various Russians, or that fateful meeting with the Russian lawyer) there is a clean, crisp answer. Every time.
And it may be completely legitimate, but there’s an oddity in lying that you can’t escape. Even when it’s as close to the truth as possible, or as mundane as possible, it still sounds…off.
Take the multiple revisions that Kushner made to his SF-86 form.
“My SF-86 application was prematurely submitted due to a miscommunication and initially did not list any contacts (not just with Russians) with foreign government officials…They sent an email to my assistant in Washington, communicating that the changes to one particular section were complete; my assistant interpreted that message as meaning that the entire form was completed. At that point, the form was a rough draft and still had many omissions including not listing any foreign government contacts and even omitted the address of my father-in-law (which was obviously well known). Because of this miscommunication, my assistant submitted the draft on January 18, 2017.”
That poor assistant. How many assistants have been thrown into the maw of blame by their bosses?
The SF-86 would go on to be updated multiple more times. In one update, he provided a list of more than 100 contacts with foreign officials, but did not include the June 16 meeting.
Or, take the meeting with the Russian lawyer. In his eleven-page statement to congressional committees, Kushner said that Don Jr. asked him to stop by a meeting on “June 9 at 3:00 p.m…He eventually sent me his own email changing the time of the meeting to 4:00 p.m. That email was on top of a long back and forth that I did not read at the time.” The rest of that email chain consisted of Don Jr., the publicist Rob Goldstone who set up the contact, and those that Goldstone said he was working on behalf of, Emin Agalarov and his father Aras Agalarov.
Kushner said that he arrived at the meeting late and that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was discussing the “issue of a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.” After “ten or so minutes,” Kushner decided that this meeting was not worth his time and emailed his assistant to call and give him an out. He had forgotten about this meeting until it “came to my attention recently.” He would not be able to recall anyone else there or give their names. It has been confirmed that Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager of Donald Trump (and someone that Kushner would have worked closely with), was also at the meeting.
In one paragraph, Kushner was able to both place himself at the meeting and also absolve himself of anything that happened there. If any information was exchanged, it was not under his watch. If anything happened, he was not present. If anyone nefarious was there, he does not remember.
It’s a similar excuse to one used by Lisa Rinna in the latest season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. After she accused Kim Richards of being a drug addict and alcoholic who is “this close” to death to Eden Sassoon, Lisa then “forgot” when the claims were brought up again by Kim’s sister Kyle in Mexico. Lisa denied saying it and accused Eden of lying. Fortunately (obviously), the entire thing was filmed by Bravo.
The “I forgot” and “I couldn’t remember” excuses worked relatively well in the case of Beverly Hills because, until the reunion, no one could pin Rinna down. And when Eileen Davidson, ally of Rinna, defended her, she used the “If she knew it was filmed, then what is the point in lying?” And indeed, what was the point of lying? In the case of Lisa Rinna, it allowed her to A) have a storyline and B) continue on with her life.
What would be the point in Jared Kushner lying? Even if there was no collusion with Russia (though we have, at the very least, a member of the Trump team’s willingness to seek such information), even if the meeting slipped his mind, even if the assistant did mess up, even if the dog did eat his homework, Jared Kushner knows that something is…off.
And that’s what’s the most troubling and weird about the Trump administration. For a group of people who claim that nothing weird is happening, weird shit keeps happening. I’m not saying it’s illegal or immoral. And in my heart of hearts, I really do believe that certain things have been blown way out of proportion. But at a certain point, it begins to sound a lot like “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
And the Trump administration is protesting a little too much, methinks.