The focus of the continuous media reports of alleged collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has shifted to Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, husband of his daughter Ivanka, and top adviser.
Kushner is said to have discussed with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the possibility of establishing a direct and secure conduit for communication between Moscow and Trump’s transition team, established after Trump won the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
“President-elect Trump made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials,” the Post reported. “Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.”
Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, also attended the meeting, according to the Post, which cites no sources for its report except “U.S. officials” and “people familiar with the matter.”
The White House acknowledged the meeting in March, but “played down it’s significance,” the Post reported, adding that the FBI now considers the meeting — and another with a Russian banker — worthy of investigation.
“Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance,” the Post reports that officials said.
No one responded to requests for comments from the Post, including the White House, Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, and the Russian Embassy. According to the newspaper:
Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts. But officials said that it’s unclear what Kislyak would have had to gain by falsely characterizing his contacts with Kushner to Moscow, particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump.
The Post’s reporting adds drama to the Kushner angle of the ongoing Russian saga:
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.
“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” one former senior intelligence official said, adding that a Trump transition member going in and out of the Russian embassy would cause “a great deal of concern.”
The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
“It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials,” the story stated towards the end, citing U.S. intelligence’s belief in an “unprecedented campaign” by the Russians “to interfere in last year’s presidential race and help elect Trump.”
And, the “Obama administration officials say members of the Trump transition team never approached them about arranging a secure communications channel with their Russian contacts, possibly because of concerns about leaks,” the Post reported.
And, “the State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. 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.”
In addition, the Post reports they first heard about the Kushner meeting though an “anonymous letter, which said, among other things, that Kushner had talked to Kislyak about setting up the communications channel.”
“In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a ‘Russian contact’ in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter,” the Post reported.