May 27, 2017

Kushner wanted a secret comms channel with Kremlin

Andrew Harnik / AP

The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner wanted to set up a secret communications channel between President Trump's transition team and the Kremlin that would be free of monitoring. He wanted the secret channel to discuss policy issues and Syria with Russia, according to three officials who spoke with the NYT.

What we know: Kushner requested on Dec. 1 or 2 that the secret channel be set up during a meeting with Kislyak at Trump Tower — a meeting also attended by Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser. Kushner wanted to use Russian diplomatic facilities for the proposed meetings. They also discussed setting up a meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian contact in a third country.

Update: Once Rex Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State, Trump's team felt there was no need for a backchannel, per an AP report, which confirmed Kushner made the request. The AP, like the NYT, reports that the channel was meant to connect Flynn with military leaders.

Why it matters: The revelation comes at a time when the FBI and DOJ are conducting an ongoing investigation into Russia's election meddling and any collusion between Russian officials and Trump team members.

Some officials said the request showed a "staggering naivete," as WashPost put it. The White House and Flynn lawyer Robert Kelner, declined to comment to the Post, while the Russian embassy didn't respond to requests for comment.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow about the request and was "taken aback" by the proposal, since it would pose a security risk for Russia and Trump's team, per WashPost

Worth noting:

  • This report is based on U.S. officials briefed on intel reports that come from intercepts of Russian communications. Russians are known to thread false information into communications to sow doubt in the U.S.
  • Trump's advisers have been similarly secretive about meetings they have had with leaders from the United Arab Emirates.

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