WASHINGTON (CBS SF) — Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. has told his superiors that he and Jared Kushner discussed setting up a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin in December, according to a report in the Washington Post.
Kushner is Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a trusted adviser to the president.
The Post report cites anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications.
The Post report, citing anonymous U.S. officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications, said Russian ambassdor to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak told his superiors that Kushner proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities for their discussions, apparently to make them more difficult to monitor. The Post said Kislyak was reportedly “taken aback” by the suggestion.
Flynn was pushed out of the White House in February after officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia in a phone call. Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, told Congress this month that that deception left Flynn vulnerable to being blackmailed by the Russians. Flynn remains under federal investigation in Virginia over his foreign business ties and was interviewed by the FBI in January about his contacts with Kislyak.
Obama administration officials told The Associated Press earlier this week that the frequency of Flynn’s discussions with Kislyak raised enough red flags that aides discussed the possibility Trump was trying to establish a one-to-one line of communication – a so-called back channel – with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Reuters reported Friday that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak last year, including two phone calls between April and November.
The news agency anonymously cited current and former U.S. officials. Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told Reuters that Kushner “has no recollection of the calls as described.”
Regarding Kushner, former FBI agent Jim Treacy said Friday: “If there is an investigation on anybody, would other folks around that person be of interest to the FBI as far as being interviewed? The answer to that is a big yes.” If the FBI wants to speak with someone, it’s not necessarily an indication of involvement or complicity, said Treacy, who did two tours in Moscow as the FBI’s legal attache.
“Really, being spoken to, does not confer a target status on the individual,” he said.
Investigators are also interested in a meeting Kushner had with the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, according to reports from The Washington Post and NBC News.
“Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings,” Gorelick said in a statement Thursday. “He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry.”
Another potential line of inquiry could concern Kushner’s failure to disclose some of his contacts with Russian government officials when he was filling out his application for a security clearance. The omissions were described as an “administrative error” by Gorelick, who said additional information about his meetings were provided to the FBI the day after he submitted his incomplete clearance application.
When applying for a security clearance, applicants are asked to disclose details about their interactions with foreigners, including the names of all the foreign government officials the applicant has had contact with over the past seven years. In some cases, people can lose their security clearances and jobs for not properly disclosing foreign contacts. Some Democrats have called on Kushner to be stripped of his security clearance and have asked the FBI to review whether Kushner complied with the law.
Todd Hinnen, the former acting head of the Justice Department’s national security division, said it would be easy to read too much into investigators’ interest in Kushner.
“That doesn’t mean he is a subject or the FBI suspects him of any wrongdoing; it also doesn’t mean the FBI doesn’t suspect him of any wrongdoing,” Hinnen said in an email.
“Given his position and his contacts, interviewing him would be an important step in any thorough investigation,” Hinnen said.
TM and © Copyright 2017 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. The Associated Press contributed to this report