- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Sunday that he is highly suspicious of the latest bombshell allegations to roil White House — that President Trump’s son-in-law tried to set up a secret channel of communications between the transition team and the Kremlin.

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak was taken aback by Jared Kushner’s request, which he relayed back to Moscow in communications that were intercepted by U.S. officials, The Washington Post reported late Friday.

Speaking to CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Graham suggested Mr. Kislyak knew he was being listened to and wanted to stir the pot.

“I don’t trust this story as far as I can throw it,” he said. “The whole story line is suspicious.”

Democrats wasted no time in highlighting the bombshell report, which said Mr. Kushner wanted to use Russian facilities to shield the communications from U.S. agencies.

It’s the latest headache for a White House that can’t escape the taint of alleged Russian attempts to influence last year’s election, and whether Mr. Trump and his associates had anything to do with it.

Only this time, the storyline reaches right into the president’s inner circle.

The Democratic National Committee urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Kushner, so that he’d forfeit his security clearance, though lawmakers from both parties said it’s important to get the facts before casting judgment.

“We need to get to the bottom of these allegations,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s This Week. “But I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance to find out whether he was truthful, whether he was candid. If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance.”

Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, took a wait-and-see approach, saying Mr. Kushner appeared ready to answer Congress’ questions.

“Instead of getting wrapped up into a lot of hyperbole, as these things can sometimes do, I think talking with him directly and getting him to answer any and all questions as he said he would do would probably be the prudent course of action,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Mr. Trump hasn’t addressed the issue directly — he ignored a shouted question upon his return home from a nine-day trip overseas — though he alluded to the controversy in a series of tweets urging his followers to disregard stories that rely on anonymous sources as “fake news.”

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly downplayed the bombshell Post report, saying Mr. Kushner is a “decent guy.”

“His number one, number one interest, really, is the nation so you know there’s a lot of different ways to communicate, back-channel, publicly with other countries. I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared,” he told NBC.

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said Sunday that he couldn’t speak in detail about what he knew at the time, though he underscored testimony to Congress last by John Brennan, in which the former CIA director said his concerns about Trump campaign contacts with Russians dated back to last summer.

“Just from a theoretical standpoint, I will tell you that my dashboard warning light was clearly on and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community, very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians,” Mr. Clapper told NBC on Sunday.

“If you put that in context with everything else we knew the Russians were doing to interfere with the election. And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique. So we were concerned,” he said.

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