So much is happening so fast let’s focus on what we know:
The WaPo reported that Trump’s Fratsputin, Jared Kushner, wanted to set up “a secret communications channel” between the transition team and the Kremlin that would be free of monitoring. Kushner wanted to use Russian diplomatic facilities for the proposed meetings.
Kushner allegedly wanted the secret channel to discuss policy issues and Syria with Russia.
Mike ‘Payola’ Allen writing at Axios’ morning email thingie:
Washington Post report that Kushner discussed “a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin” is something from a Clancy novel.
- Why it matters: He did it, knowing the world suspected Russia of helping tilt the election to his father-in-law.
- Caveat, from WP: “Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts.”
Deets from N.Y. Times, which follows WaPo and also makes the “Russia channel” the paper’s lead story:
- “The [December] conversation between Mr. Kushner and the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, took place during a meeting at Trump Tower … Also present … was Michael T. Flynn.”
- “It is unclear who first proposed the communications channel, but … people familiar with the meeting said the idea was to have Mr. Flynn speak directly with a senior military official in Moscow to discuss Syria and other security issues. The communications channel was never set up, the people said.”
- “This week, the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the Trump campaign’s treasurer to preserve and produce all documents — including phone records and emails — dating to its official start in June 2015, according to one person associated with the campaign.”
Meanwhile, Tiger Beat on the Potomac (thanks Charlie!) gives us some reaction to this story:
An array of former intelligence and national security officials reacted with astonishment to the report, stressing the seriousness of Kushner’s reported actions.
“Hard to fully convey the gravity of this,” said Susan Hennessey, a national security fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former lawyer for the National Security Agency, of the Washington Post report. “Unthinkable Kushner could stay in the White House,” she added.
“GOOD GRIEF. This is serious,” Bob Deitz, an NSA and Central Intelligence Agency veteran who worked in both Clinton and Bush administrations, told Business Insider of the attempt to establish secretive Russian communications. “This is a big problem for the President.”
and of course Fratsputin’s lawyers push back:
“Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described,” Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told POLITICO in a statement, responding to a Reuters report about Kushner’s contacts with Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
“We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information,” Gorelick added.
But Kushner’s legal team was silent about other reports that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret line of communications with the Kremlin. The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the reports.
So while not exactly confirming the meat of the story, they are not denying it either. Back to Axios to round off the discussion:
Sound smart: A hot theory is that Trump can’t boot some top (non-Jared) aides because those inside know too much, and outsiders (beyond old campaign hands) can’t be trusted with what they’d learn.