The Washington Post produced a “bombshell” scoop (as CNN described it) on Friday evening, alleging that Jared Kushner met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December and wanted to establish a “back channel” of communication with Russia. It also reported that Kushner had met with an executive of a sanctioned Russian bank.
None of that is new.
The meeting with Kislyak was reported nearly three months ago. The meeting with the banker was reported two months ago. And stories about a potential “back channel” were reported almost two months ago.
The only new piece of information is that Kushner may have discussed the back channel at the Kislyak meeting. That allegation comes from communications intercepted by American intelligence — and leaked to the media.
Presumably, Kushner’s name had to be “unmasked” in order to reveal who Kislyak was meeting. For the second time, then, rogue U.S. intelligence officials have broken the law to leak the name of a U.S. citizen to the media.
The irony is that the information tends to exonerate Kushner, and the Trump presidential campaign, of collusion with Russia during the 2016 elections. If Trump had been colluding with Russia already, no “back channel” would have been necessary. And the persistent, illegal leaks from U.S. intelligence officials show exactly why such a “back channel” would be entirely justified.
The president now has to evade spying by his own government.
There is nothing wrong or illegal about using diplomatic back channels. President Barack Obama used them all the time — often to dubious effect — to communicate with enemy nations like Iran. Trump was well within his rights to seek ways to communicate with Russia, with whom the young administration has had a hot-and-cold relationship.
The Post claims — citing “people familiar with the matter,” not necessarily official sources — that the Kushner meeting with Kislyak is now of “investigative interest.” But it would seem to be of no value to an investigation of campaign collusion.
The value to Trump’s political opponents, eager to save the Russia conspiracy theory, is clear.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.