Washington Post: Jared Kushner proposed secret communication channel with Kremlin
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and trusted aide Jared Kushner discussed creating a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin with Russia’s ambassador Sergei Kislyak, The Washington Post reported Friday, citing U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Kislyak reportedly told higher-ups in Moscow that Kushner suggested the proposal in a meeting at Trump Tower — which former national security adviser Michael Flynn also attended — in December. Kushner “suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications,” the Post reported.
The Post said Kislyak was reportedly “taken aback” by the suggestion.
CNN has not yet confirmed the Post’s report.
However, earlier this year, in March, CNN reported Kushner had “relationship meetings” with Kislyak and with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov to discuss issues like sanctions. The transition team was looking for ways to establish a back channel to Putin, a source told CNN.
The FBI’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election is looking at Kushner’s multiple roles in the Trump administration, CNN reported Thursday.
Reached Friday, an administration official said there would be no comment on the latest Kushner report.
Amid reports the FBI is scrutinizing Kushner’s encounters, his lawyer says he stands ready to talk to federal investigators as well as Congress about his contacts and his role in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into Russia-Trump campaign connections, including allegations that there may have been collaboration to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“The FBI tries to be thorough in their investigations,” said defense lawyer Edward MacMahon, who is not involved in the case. “If it’s been publicly reported that he met with Russians, and the investigation has to do with administration officials meeting with Russians, well, then, they’ll probably want to talk to everybody.”
Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser last year, overseeing the campaign’s digital strategy, and remains an influential confidant within the White House.
One likely area of interest for investigators would be Kushner’s own meetings with Russians, given that such encounters with a variety of Trump associates are at the root of the sprawling probe, now overseen by former FBI director Robert Mueller.
Investigators are also interested in a meeting Kushner had with the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, according to reports from The Washington Post and NBC News.
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” his attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”
Another potential line of inquiry could concern Kushner’s failure to disclose some of his contacts with Russian government officials when he was filling out his application for a security clearance. The omissions were described as an “administrative error” by Gorelick, who said additional information about his meetings were provided to the FBI the day after he submitted his incomplete clearance application.
When applying for a security clearance, applicants are asked to disclose details about their interactions with foreigners, including the names of all the foreign government officials the applicant has had contact with over the past seven years. In some cases, people can lose their security clearances and jobs for not properly disclosing foreign contacts. Some Democrats have called on Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance and have asked the FBI to review whether Kushner complied with the law.
Todd Hinnen, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said it would be easy to read too much into investigators’ interest in Kushner.
“That doesn’t mean he is a subject or the FBI suspects him of any wrongdoing; it also doesn’t mean the FBI doesn’t suspect him of any wrongdoing,” Hinnen said in an email.