The Russian games are back in the limelight. Right now, the focus is on top Trump adviser Jared Kushner, who—gasp—reportedly tried to create a back channel with the Russians. Is this collusion? Is this treason? What does this mean? Well, for starters, it means really nothing. Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, though she isn’t given a byline, reported that a source told her that back channel discussions never occurred. Yet, let’s humor the back channel talk. It’s completely normal and acceptable, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also said that back channeling is a long-standing practice. Even the Obama administration used this method of communication in 2008 to reach out to Iran. CNN's Fareed Zakaria doesn't mention it, but Obama sent former diplomat William Miller to Iran to relay the message that should he win the 2008 election, relations would be better (via Fareed Zakaria) [emphasis mine]:
Early in the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama signaled that he was going to break with the Bush administration’s Manichean foreign policy. The topic was Iran. He explained repeatedly that the Bush policy of simply pressuring Iran was not working and that he would be willing to talk to the country’s leaders to find ways to reduce tensions and dangers. Two years into his presidency, Obama’s Iran policy looks a lot like George W. Bush’s — with some of the same problems that candidate Obama pointed out two years ago.
Yet, is Kushner an actual target of the Russian collusion investigation? We don’t know. Even The Washington Post admitted this, though he’s reported to be a person of interest, which is incredibly vague. Nevertheless, based on the major networks coverage, you’d think that Kushner and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn are guilty of some nefarious plot. First, there is still zero evidence to suggest that Trump officials colluded with the Russians. Second, it’s unknown if Jared Kushner is a target, but what we do know is that he hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing. The Post piece, however, doesn’t get to that part until the fifth paragraph, though they also say that people who haven’t been targeted could also be charged. So, he hasn’t done anything wrong, but he can still be charged (and we hope he does), according to the Post. Prior to that tidbit of information, you’d think Kushner is a FSB agent [emphasis mine]:
Investigators are focusing on a series of meetings held by Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and an influential White House adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and related matters, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said.
The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.
FBI agents also remain keenly interested in former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, but Kushner is the only current White House official known to be considered a key person in the probe.
The Post has not been told that Kushner is a target — or the central focus — of the investigation, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. “Target” is a word that generally refers to someone who is the main suspect of investigators’ attention, though prosecutors can and do bring charges against people who are not marked with that distinction. Mr. Kushner said he would cooperate with the investigation. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) doesn’t believe this Kushner-Trump story altogether.
So, what’s the story here? Kushner wanted a secret channel for communications, which isn’t illegal, and something that’s been done by previous administrations. We also don’t know if he actually wanted such a channel due to conflicting reports. We also don’t know if he’s a target of the investigation, and he hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.
Watergate journalist and Washington Post’s associate editor Bob Woodward recently gave out some good advice regarding how reporters should cover the Trump White House: stop and listen. In this case, maybe relax and let all the facts come out before drumming up collusion hysteria.