Jared Kushner Will Need To Clear Up Many Questions, Sen. Klobuchar Says
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, rarely makes public statements. But he has made an exception this morning for an exceptional reason. Kushner is set to answer questions today from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the Russia investigation. In advance of that, Jared Kushner has released a written statement online. And in it, he says, quote, "I did not collude nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded with any foreign government," end quote.
Kushner says in that same statement that he had four interactions with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign. But he insists he discussed nothing improper in those meetings. Lawmakers will ask for details today on the Hill as we mentioned.
Meanwhile, the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and the president's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, have also agreed to be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. We are joined now by a member of that committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's a Democrat from Minnesota. And she is in our studios this morning. Senator, thanks for coming in.
AMY KLOBUCHAR: Well, thanks, Rachel. It's great to be on.
MARTIN: You are not a member of the intelligence committee. But as an informed member of the Senate, what do you think Jared Kushner still needs to clear up?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, anything to do with these meetings, given that we know under the law, it's actually illegal under the campaign laws to take anything of value from a foreign entity. And one case says that can include information. So I think there's going to be a lot of questions from the committee members about what he knew, who he talked to afterward, what other people did in relation to the Russian government because as we know from our questions in the judiciary committee of Attorney General Sessions that you get one answer. And then it unravels. And you start finding out about more meetings. So I think that's going to be a lot of the questions.
MARTIN: You were referencing there that much-publicized meeting now between Donald Trump Jr. and this Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Jared Kushner was there albeit, we understand, briefly. Paul Manafort was also reportedly in that same meeting. He, along with Donald Trump Jr., are expected to go before your committee, the judiciary committee, this week. That was supposed to be public. Now, it's behind closed doors. What changed?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, a lot of this - Chairman Grassley is leading this charge with Senator Feinstein. And a lot of this had to do with the fact that they're willing to give us documents, willing to meet with us first. But the belief is that we will have a public hearing, most likely in the fall, after we have the behind-closed-door hearing. And that is not out of the realm of possibility of what people do all the time in a Senate function. So we hope that we will then have a public meeting. And that is the plan.
But again, everything changes right now in Washington. But that's what we'd like to see because remember, Bob Mueller is doing that major investigation. But at the same time, our role in Congress is oversight, to show the public because we have a bigger obligation. That obligation is to get out the facts to make sure that this never happens again and so that states can protect themselves going forward from a foreign power interfering in our elections.
MARTIN: What documents did Manafort and Trump Jr. handover?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, we have not seen those documents yet. But the plan is that we would be able to review those documents.
MARTIN: Do you - can you tell us what they are, what you're hoping to learn?
KLOBUCHAR: No, I can't because I haven't seen them yet.
MARTIN: What are - are there - do you believe there are still holes in your understanding of the relationships between Trump officials and Russia? What's outstanding for you?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, of course, there are. I mean, what we don't know is what was said at this meeting. They keep adding people to the meeting.
MARTIN: So to that meeting in particular?
KLOBUCHAR: That meeting particular, it's like a clown car, in terms of more and more people are getting in the room. And then you have what happened afterward with the information because every time you think you understand something, someone new comes in from the campaign that was involved with the Russians. And you also have the fact that it's translated now into positions that the administration is taking.
We do not understand - those of us that have been to Ukraine and seeing those troops on the front line - I went there with Senator McCain and Lindsey Graham. We don't understand, Democrats or Republicans, why they would have been opposing the sanction bill for so long. They have finally said now, in some conflicting words but over the weekend, that they plan to support that bill as it comes out of the House of Representatives, similar to the bill passed in the Senate. And that's good news. But it has been a long haul. And I, personally, think he should have brought that sanctions bill with him to meet with Vladimir Putin at the G-20 to show some power when he got there.
MARTIN: I want to turn to health care because the Senate is, again, going to try to get a vote on the Republican plan this week. What's the Democrats' strategy on this? Do you keep waiting for the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare to fail before you address the real problems with the Affordable Care Act?
KLOBUCHAR: Our strategy is simple. And that is to make positive changes for the American people. I said the day it passed that the Affordable Care Act was a beginning and not an end. And that means bringing prescription drug prices down by allowing 41 million seniors to negotiate under Medicare Part D and allowing for more competition from generics and strengthening the exchanges. But that being said, we are on, Rachel. We had version A and B. They say they're on version C.
I look at it differently. I think they're at version F. A and B were the two House versions. Then we had C and D, the two Senate versions. Then we went to E, which was a repeal. And now, we're at F. And my mom was an elementary school teacher. And she always told me, you can't get worse than F.
KLOBUCHAR: She actually didn't say that. She was too nice. But the point of it is that they can't keep doing this. They have to, at some point, say, we want to work with you to help the American people.
MARTIN: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, thanks so much for your time this morning.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.