‘I wouldn’t be concerned’ about backchannels with Russia
President Trump’s national security adviser said Saturday he “would not be concerned” about having a backchannel communications system with Russia, following reports that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, had discussed setting up a secret communications channel with Russian officials.
H.R. McMaster told reporters during a press briefing in Italy on Saturday that the U.S. frequently sets up backchannels with other countries to allow for discreet communications.
“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” the national security adviser said.
“What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner, so I’m not concerned,” he continued.
McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn met with reporters on the last day of Trump’s first foreign trip as commander in chief and faced questions about a Washington Post report published Friday about Kushner and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Cohn said he wasn’t “going to comment on Jared.”
U.S. officials told the Washington Post that Kushner and Kislyak met at Trump Tower in December and talked about setting up a secret and secure backchannel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
Kushner suggested using U.S.-based Russian diplomatic facilities to avoid having their conversations monitored, Kislyak said.
Kislyak then notified Moscow of Kushner’s proposal.
According to the New York Times, the backchannel was established to allow former national security adviser Michael Flynn to talk with Russian officials about Syria and other security issues.
The communications channel was never set up, though, the New York Times reported.
Trump fired Flynn, who is under investigation, earlier this year after he lied about conversations he had with Kislyak.
The revelations regarding Kushner’s discussions with Kislyak come after it was reported this week that the president’s son-in-law was a “person of interest” in the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.