- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2017

President Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is under fire for a series of new allegations involving his past interactions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

Mr. Kushner spoke with Moscow’s envoy last year about creating a covert channel that would let Mr. Trump’s transition team communicate privately with the Kremlin off the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies, the Washington Post first reported Friday evening citing multiple unnamed U.S. officials.

Reuters corroborated the allegation in its own report late Friday and added that Mr. Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Mr. Kislyak during and after Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, citing seven current and former U.S. officials.

White House officials traveling with the president at the G7 Summit in Italy refused to comment on the reports about Mr. Kushner, except to say in general that back-channel communications between countries are not unusual.

“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters. “I’m not concerned.”

But he also said a back-channel to Russia is “not something I’ve been involved in or have any knowledge of.”

The latest allegations involving Mr. Kushner, the husband of Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, emerged this week as federal investigators probe the Trump team’s ties to Russia in the wake of last year’s unprecedented White House race.

The U.S. intelligence community concluded in January that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to sabotage the campaign of Mr. Trump’s presidential opponent, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. House, Senate and Justice Department are each investigating possible collusion between the Trump team and the Kremlin.

Mr. Kushner allegedly proposed establishing a secure, secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin during a Dec. 2016 meeting with Mr. Kislyak in New York City, the Post reported. Mr. Kislyak discussed the proposal with his superiors in Moscow, and that conversation was intercepted by U.S. intelligence, the Post reported.

The previously undisclosed interactions with Russia’s ambassador as well as the alleged attempt to establish back-channel communications triggered heated reactions Friday from top Democrats and former intelligence officials, among others.

“If this is true, #Kushner needs to resign,” Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, tweeted Friday evening in response to the Reuters report. “He should also be prosecuted for lying on his security clearance form, a federal crime,” the House Judiciary committee member added.

“[I]f an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we’d consider it espionage,” former acting CIA director John McLaughlin told MSNBC on Friday.

Mr. Trump former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after it was revealed he misled Vice President Pence about the nature of his own conversations with Mr. Kislyak. And Jeff Sessions, Mr. Trump’s attorney general and former campaign surrogate, claimed to recuse himself from federal matters related to Russia in March after he admittedly met twice with Mr. Kislyak in 2016 but failed to disclose those interactions during his confirmation hearing in January.

Mr Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described,” Mr. Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, told Reuters on Friday with respect to the alleged conversations with Mr. Kislyak.

The White House and Kremlin have denied colluding during last year’s race.

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Dave Boyer contributed to this report


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