Donald Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner wanted a ‘secret communications channel’ with Russia

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, according to a report.

The explosive report comes amid new claims Kushner had three previously undisclosed contacts with Russia, before and during last year’s presidential campaign.

Kushner, then and now 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 Washington Post said, quoting US officials briefed on intelligence reports.

The Post story is yet another sensational detail 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 favour and thus deny Hillary Clinton the presidency.

DONALD Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kusher wanted to establish a bug-proof communications line with Russia according to an explosive report.

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.

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.

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.

A further potentially damage report claimed Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign.

Those contacts included two phone calls between April and November last year, current and former US officials have told Reuters.

By early this year, Kushner had become a focus of the FBI investigation into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators last year as they began scrutinising former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s connections with Russian officials, the two sources said.

Kusher meets with The Pope.

 

Jared Kushner, left, and his wife Ivanka Trump watch during a visit to Yad Vashem to honour the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.

While the FBI is investigating Kushner’s contacts with Russia, he is not currently a target of that investigation, the current law enforcement official said.

The new information about the two calls as well as other details uncovered by Reuters shed light on when and why Kushner first attracted FBI attention, and show that his contacts with Russian envoy Sergei Kislyak were more extensive than the White House has acknowledged.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Kushner was under scrutiny by the FBI, in the first sign that the investigation, which began last July, has reached the president’s inner circle.

The FBI declined to comment, while the Russian embassy said it was policy not to comment on individual diplomatic contacts.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

In March, the White House said that Kushner and Flynn had met Kislyak at Trump Tower in December to establish “a line of communication.” Kislyak also attended a Trump campaign speech in Washington in April 2016 that Kushner attended.

The White House did not acknowledge any other contacts between Kushner and Russian officials.

 

KUSHER IN THE MIDDLE

Kushner, the 36-year-old real estate developer who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is likely to take centre 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.

Kushner has offered to talk to Congress about these meetings, according to his lawyer Jamie Gorelick.

The Post and other media have been careful to note that their sources did not say Kushner was a “target” of the investigation, nor that he was accused of any wrongdoing.

If he were a “target,” it would suggest Kushner was a main suspect of the investigation.

The Post reported last week that the Russia investigation had been extended to a top White House official as a “significant person of interest.”

Kushner is the only person currently in the White House known to be under investigation.

Former National Security Advisor General Mike Flynn (l), Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (2l) and US President Donald Trump at the beginning of a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC in January.

CONTACT WITH RUSSIA

At least four other former campaign aides or advisers have been reported to be under FBI scrutiny as well — Flynn, former campaign manager Paul Manafort, sometime Trump adviser Roger Stone, and ex-campaign adviser Carter Page.

The FBI investigation is now being overseen by Robert Mueller, a respected former FBI director who was given broad powers to pursue the case as a special counsel after Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9.

The key question before the FBI is whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its effort to tilt the 2016 US election in the Republican’s favour, which included a damaging hack of Democratic campaign emails.

Trump has denied any collusion, calling the probe “the greatest witch hunt” in American political history.

Former CIA director John Brennan revealed this week that intelligence chiefs had been looking into suspicious contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials since mid-2016.

The Senate and House Intelligence Committees also are investigating, but not with an eye to bringing criminal charges.

In early December, after Trump had won the elections, Kushner and Flynn met in New York with Kislyak.

Kushner also met that month with Sergei Gorkov, chairman of VneshEconomBank, the state bank under US sanctions since July 2014.

Flynn and Kushner.

Both those meetings have since been publicly acknowledged by the White House, but Kushner initially failed to declare them on forms submitted to obtain a security clearance.

His lawyer later said it was a mistake, telling the FBI that he would amend the forms

Kushner, then and now an 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 paper said the 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, was also at the meeting.

The Post previously reported that investigators are focusing on meetings he held in December with Kislyak and the head of a Russian bank that has been under US sanctions since 2014.

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Kushner has offered to talk to Congress about these meetings, according to his lawyer Jamie Gorelick.

The Post reported last week that the Russia investigation had been extended to a top White House official as a “significant person of interest.” Kushner is the only person currently in the White House known to be under investigation.