Trump Pushing Big White House Changes as Russia Crisis Grows
- Author: Leroy Wright May 28, 2017,
May 28, 2017, 21:00
Former director of national intelligence James Clapper reiterated on Sunday that he saw no "smoking gun" evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
"Hard to fully convey the gravity of this", said Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former lawyer for the National Security Agency, of the Washington Post report.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Saturday said he "would not be concerned" by backchannel communications with Russian Federation, though he declined to specifically comment on allegations that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin shortly after the election. "Everything is in play", one Trump adviser said. "We're not going to comment on Jared", he said.
FBI investigators have a simple reason for believing Jared Kushner can help them determine whether President Trump's campaign helped Russia influence the presidential election: Kushner met with senior Russians during the campaign.
Cohn, asked to explain his comment Friday that the president's view on the Paris climate accord is evolving, said Trump is "continuously talking to people about the issue to gain more knowledge about the issue".
National security sources told the Washington Post and other publications that, though Trump's transition team could have set up communications channels with foreign governments through the White House, concerns over leaks by Obama staffers could have driven them to seek alternative modes of communication.
Cohn said: "We're not going to comment on Jared".
Another senior administration official, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, said the topic of Kushner and his relationship to Russian Federation was not raised at the G-7 summit in Italy which ended today.
While the White House confirmed that encounter in March, it was reported on Friday that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.
Kushner spoke with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the US, about creating the secret line to make it easier to hold sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
Investigators are also interested in a meeting Kushner had with the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, according to reports from The Post and NBC News.
Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into any connections between Russian Federation and the Trump campaign, including allegations that there may have been collaboration to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow is calling on the U.S. media to stop spreading lies about Kislyak.
Schiff was also critical of continuing involvement in aspects of the Russian Federation probe by fellow Californian Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who stepped aside from the probe earlier this year after the House Ethics Committee began investigating whether he had improperly revealed classified information. It was said to be the first time any investigators have made inquiries with Trump's campaign officials. She also said allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. elections are part of a well-thought out "smear campaign" that has nothing to do with reality.
The FBI's focus on Kushner does not necessarily mean he is suspected of a crime, nor is he considered a subject of the bureau's wider probe of Russian Federation.
"It says an very bad lot about us as a society that we could actually harbor those kinds of feelings that the organs of the state would be used by my predecessor to come after me or to intercept my communications or to disrupt my administration in a way that made it seem legitimate to me to use the secure communications facilities of a foreign power". Some Democrats have called on Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance and have asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to review whether Kushner complied with the law.