WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, on Tuesday dismissed Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign as a “couple of Facebook ads” and said the investigation of it was far more damaging to the country than the intrusion itself.
“You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing,” Mr. Kushner said during a panel sponsored by Time magazine. “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.”
“Quite frankly, the whole thing is just a big distraction for the country,” said Mr. Kushner, in his first public comments since the release of the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, last week.
Facebook estimated that Russian ads and social media posts reached 126 million Americans during the election, only about 10 million fewer than the number who voted in 2016. In addition, Russians hacked accounts of the Democratic National Committee and leaked damaging information about Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Kushner is a recurring character in Mr. Mueller’s report: He took part in a much-scrutinized June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, and in meetings during the transition with a Russian banker and Russia’s ambassador to Washington. On Tuesday, Mr. Kushner said he did not focus on Russia’s motives in seeking those meetings, adding that it was natural for interested parties to try to contact people around Mr. Trump, given the outsider nature of his campaign.
Mr. Kushner attributed the multiple investigations of Russia’s role to the inability of the political and news media establishment to accept his father-in-law’s victory over Mrs. Clinton, even though the F.B.I.’s investigation of Russian interference predated the election.
In his report, Mr. Mueller concluded that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
While the report found that no members of the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russians to tilt the election, it 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.”
Mr. Kushner also addressed American intelligence assessments that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, with whom he has cultivated a close relationship, had ordered the killing of the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He said he advised Prince Mohammed “to be as transparent as possible.”
Asked whether the prince had heeded his advice, Mr. Kushner said, “We’ll find out.”