Kushner proposed secret communication channel with Kremlin
- Author: Zachary Reyes May 27, 2017,
May 27, 2017, 11:00
WASHINGTON-President Donald Trump is actively discussing major changes in the White House, including a shakeup of his senior team, after spending much of his free time during his overseas trip weighing the Russian Federation investigation and the political crisis it poses for him, according to several senior administration officials and outside advisers.
Kushner, who is reportedly a person-of-interest in the FBI's investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, asked Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to use his country's diplomatic communication system in order to shield the transition's pre-inauguration discussions, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators a year ago as they began scrutinizing former national security adviser Michael Flynn's connections with Russian officials, the two sources said.
Kushner's interactions with Russians - including Kislyak and an executive for a Russian bank under US sanctions - were not acknowledged by the White House until they were exposed in media reports.
Kushner wanted a secret communications channel because the Trump team had learned their open communications with the Russians during the campaign had been caught up in routine U.S. surveillance of the Russians.
The Post and other media have been careful to note that their sources did not say Kushner was a "target" of the investigation, nor that he was accused of any wrongdoing.
Glassner did not immediately respond to a request for comment and a White House representative had no immediate comment, the Post said. He has no recollection of the calls as described. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into Russia-Trump campaign connections. It did not specify what came of Kushner's alleged pitch, if anything.
Trump returns to Washington on Saturday from his first trip overseas as president.
Flynn was pushed out of the White House in February after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed USA sanctions against Russian Federation in a phone call.
"Kislyak, like most Russian ambassadors to the US over the past 50 years or more, is believed to be very active in support of Russian intelligence operations".
Two people familiar with those 18 contacts said Flynn and Kushner were among the Trump associates who spoke to the ambassador by telephone.
Kislyak also attended a Trump campaign speech in Washington in April 2016 that Kushner attended.
The State Department, the White House National Security Council and USA intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual.
Before the election, Kislyak's undisclosed discussions with Kushner and Flynn focused on fighting terrorism and improving U.S. It is also not clear whether Kushner engaged with Kislyak on his own or with other Trump aides.
FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current USA law enforcement official.
"How would he trust that the Russians wouldn't leak it on their side?" said one former senior intelligence official. But new administrations are generally cautious in their handling of interactions with Moscow, which USA intelligence agencies have accused of waging an unprecedented campaign to interfere in last year's presidential race and help elect Trump.