US top security official 'not concerned' after Kushner back-channel reports

ByREUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
May 28, 2017 09:49

Reuters reported last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between McMaster's predecessor Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador as Trump prepared to take office.




McMaster says "not concerned" after Kushner back-channel reports (credit: REUTERS)

Asked about reports that President Donald Trump's son-in-law had tried to set up a secret channel of communication with Russia before the president took office, US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that so-called "back-channeling" was normal.

McMaster declined to speak specifically about the case of Jared Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to Trump, but when asked if it would concern him if someone in the administration tried to set up a back channel with the Russian embassy or the Kremlin, he replied "no."

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"We have back-channel communications with any number of individual (countries). So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner," McMaster said.

"So it doesn't pre-expose you to any sort of content or any kind of conversation or anything. So we're not concerned about it."

Reuters reported last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between McMaster's predecessor Mike Flynn and the Russian ambassador as Trump prepared to take office.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Kushner participated in that conversation.

Following a 10-day international trip that included a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump returned to Washington on Saturday amid swirling controversies centering on numerous fronts.

The president has come under immense scrutiny at home for his recent firing of former FBI director James Comey, who was investigating the Trump campaign for its alleged ties to the Russian government and its suspected involvement in influencing the 2016 presidential election.

Kushner first garnered attention from US federal authorities after it was revealed that the senior presidential adviser reportedly had failed to disclose contact with Russia's ambassador to the US on three different occasions during and after the 2016 race for the White House. 

Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, two sources told Reuters.

While the FBI is investigating Kushner’s contacts with Russia, he is not currently a target of that investigation, one current law enforcement official told Reuters.

Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said his client did not remember any calls with Sergey Kislyak between April and November.

Kushner later failed to disclose that he had contact with Russian diplomats during his security clearance application, a felony under US law that carries a potential prison sentence.

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