Reports: Kushner Had Multiple Undisclosed Conversations With Kislyak, Discussed "Back Channel" Comms

Posted: May 26, 2017 9:00 PM

On Thursday, reports surfaced that the FBI was looking into meetings that President Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, had with a Russian banker under investigation in the US and with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. 

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Kushner had been involved in a December 1 or 2 meeting at Trump Tower between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Kislyak in which the prospect of setting up a "back channel" communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin was discussed.

"Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, then President-elect Trump’s son-in-law and confidant, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications."

The Post said its sources were "US officials briefed on intelligence reports," and that a former US senior intelligence official admitted that Russia, if it suspects a line is monitored, will sometimes feed false information through that channel to confuse US analysts, but that there was no clear benefit for Kislyak to feed false information at that time. He added that the idea “seems extremely naïve or absolutely crazy.”

A few hours later, Reuters reported that there were at least "three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign," according to "seven current and former U.S. officials." One source told Reuters that two of the contacts were phone calls between April and November, 2016.

Reuters also reported that "Officials familiar with intelligence on contacts between the Russians and Trump advisers said that so far they have not seen evidence of any wrongdoing or collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.  Moreover, they said, nothing found so far indicates that Trump authorized, or was even aware of, the contacts" and that "there may not have been anything improper about the contacts."

Whether these contacts represent naive outsiders botching a transition, relatives and associates attempting to cash in on a new connection, business as usual, or something more sinister is yet to be seen.