WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made a pre-inauguration proposal to the Russian ambassador to set up a secret, bug-proof communications line with the Kremlin, The Washington Post reported Friday evening (Saturday in Manila).
Kushner, a close adviser to Trump, went so far as to suggest using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States to protect such a channel from being monitored, the Post said, quoting US officials briefed on intelligence reports.
The Post story is yet another sensational element in the deluge of allegations raising questions about team Trump’s relationship with the Russians, whom US intelligence agencies say tried to sway the November election in Trump’s favor and thus deny Hillary Clinton the presidency.
And it ensures that Trump will be thrust right back into the din of the Russia scandal upon his return to Washington this weekend, following his first foreign trip, a tour of the Middle East and Europe.
The Washington Post said the secret comms proposal was made December 1 or 2 at Trump Tower in New York, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by US officials.
Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser before being fired 24 days into the job for not telling the truth about meetings he held with the Russian ambassador, was also at the meeting, the Post said.
The Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, was surprised by Kushner’s idea of the secret channel and passed it on to the Kremlin, the Post said. It did not specify what came of Kushner’s alleged pitch, if anything.
The White House did not immediately comment on the Post report.
But “not disclosing contacts which has been a pattern here. It raises a lot of questions,” Jim Himes, a Connecticut Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC.
“If it’s true that somebody did ask for some kind of private line, some kind of mode of communication that was secure that was unusual, boy does that raise a whole bunch of questions.”
Besides the Kushner developments, which strikes at Trump’s core by drawing his family into the crisis, the White House also faces a cascade of other worries in the coming week.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has “asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015,” the Post reported. There was no immediate White House reaction.
Fired former FBI director James Comey has promised to testify at a yet unscheduled open session before the Senate Intelligence Committee, sometime after Monday’s Memorial Day holiday.
And the White House staff itself could be facing upheaval. CBS News reported that Trump is expected to consider plans for a shakeup of his communications operation upon his return.
But Kushner, the 36-year-old real estate developer who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is likely to take center stage in the coming days.
Reserved in public, he was on prominent view during Trump’s first presidential trip, as befits a trusted behind-the-scenes adviser involved in everything from Middle East peace to an initiative to streamline the US bureaucracy.
The Post reported earlier that investigators are focusing on meetings he held in December with Moscow’s ambassador and the head of a Russian bank that has been under US sanctions since 2014.