Friday night Reuters reported that Jared Kushner had three contacts with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak during and after the 2016 presidential campaign that have not been previously disclosed, and that the two discussed setting up a "back channel" for communications between the transition team and the Kremlin. Hours later, Kushner's attorney, Jamie Gorelick released a statement to Politico saying Kushner has "no recollection" of the alleged contacts.
"Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described. 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 did not address the allegation that Kushner wanted to create a back channel for communications, and the White House has not addressed the newest reports. But former national security officials who worked for both Republican and Democrat administrations said the allegations were very serious.
"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."
The DNC, not needing any evidence of wrongdoing beyond anonymously-sourced reports and assumptions of bad intentions, has called for Trump to fire Kushner immediately.
National security sources told the Washington Post and other publications that, though Trump's transition team could have set up communications channels with foreign governments through the White House, concerns over leaks by Obama staffers could have driven them to seek alternative modes of communication.
Former Obama administration staffers told the Washington Post that Trump's transition team never sought to set up communications with Russia through the White House.
Reports that Kushner and former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn wanted to set up a secret communication channel with Moscow are based on a report Kislyak supposedly sent to his superiors that was intercepted by US intelligence services. In that communication, according to the New York Times, Kislyak said the purpose of the channel was to enable secure (meaning leak-free) communications about Syria and other mutual security interests. The Times' sources say the lines were never set up.