The Latest: Syria said to be aim of reported back channel

AP News
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Posted: May 27, 2017 11:54 AM
The Latest: Syria said to be aim of reported back channel

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on developments involving possible connections between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign (all times local):

11:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump's son-in-law and now top White House adviser Jared Kushner proposed setting up a secret back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team during a December meeting with a leading Russian diplomat.

The Associated Press has learned that Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. — Sergey Kislyak — about creating the secret line to make it easier to hold sensitive discussions about the conflict in Syria.

A person familiar with the discussions says the back channel was meant to connect Michael Flynn — who later became Trump's first former national security adviser — with Russian military leaders.

This person says the administration felt there was no need for a back channel once Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was confirmed, and the Trump team decided to communicate with Moscow through more official channels.

The person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

—Associated Press writer Vivian Salama

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11:30 a.m.

The lead Senate committee investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has requested information and documents from President Donald Trump's campaign.

That's according to a person familiar with the request who wasn't authorized to discuss the developments publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The request from the Senate Intelligence Committee arrived last week at campaign headquarters in New York.

The person with knowledge of the investigation says the request is the first time any investigators have made inquiries with Trump's campaign officials.

The Senate committee's request was first reported by The Washington Post.

It covers materials such as emails, phone records and documents dating to Trump's first days as a candidate in July 2015.

—Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz

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10 a.m.

Some of President Donald Trump's top aides are refusing to address reports that Trump's son-in-law — White House adviser Jared Kushner — and a Russian diplomat may have discussed setting up a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin.

Questions about the reports came up when Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, and economic aide Gary Cohn met with the media in Sicily on Saturday — just before Trump headed back to Washington from his first foreign trip as president.

McMaster and Cohn are declining to comment on new revelations about Kushner communications with Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

And here's just what Cohn said: "We're not going to comment on Jared. We're just not going to comment." That came after repeated questions from reporters.

McMaster says that in general, "we have back channel communications with a number of countries" and doing that "allows you to communicate in a discreet manner."