Jared Kushner is “under FBI scrutiny” into alleged Trump-Russia ties, and as part of this investigation, the Washington Post has learned that Kushner reportedly discussed setting up a backchannel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin during his meeting in December with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
According to intelligence officials, during a meeting at Trump Tower that included Michael Flynn, Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for a secret and secure channel with the Kremlin that would shield discussions between the two sides from U.S. monitoring.
The White House disclosed in March that this meeting had taken place, but only after media reports surfaced and has so far played down its significance. However, after the U.S. intercepted Russian intel discussing the meeting, eyebrows were raised:
But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
According to officials who spoke to the Post, while Russia frequently sends out misinformation, it’s not clear what leaking this information would accomplish, “particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump,” lending to its credibility.
While the request, if legitimate, seems shady (especially considering the other instances of Trump officials attempting to obscure communications with Russia), those same officials proposed that it could have been made because of naïveté. That is to say, the FBI regularly monitors Russian officials whenever they’re in the U.S., including constant surveillance of diplomats:
“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naïve or absolutely crazy.”
It’s not clear what Kushner’s agenda was — if this story shakes out –but it’s pretty weird that the administration tried to keep it under wraps.