Trump defends Kushner over allegations of Russia communication
President Donald Trump came out in support of his son-in-law and senior White House advisor Jared Kushner, following reports that he had tried setting up secret back-channels for communication with Russia. Trump said: "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him." Trump said Kushner is a "very good person" working on programs that would help save billions.
Trump names son-in-law as senior White House adviser
On January 10, President-elect Donald Trump named Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, as a senior White House adviser. Kushner, 35, is married to Ivanka Trump, 35. Members of the rival Democratic Party opposed Kushner's appointment, citing nepotism laws and potential conflict of interest. Members of the US government's House Judiciary Committee had called on the Department of Justice and the Office of Government Ethics' intervention.
Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner under FBI scrutiny in Russia probe
On May 26, it was reported that President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was facing FBI scrutiny as part of the investigation into Russia, according to US media reports. Investigators believe Kushner has important information pertaining to the inquiry. The FBI is conducting an investigation into Russia's potential interference in the 2016 presidential election and Moscow's alleged links to the Trump campaign.
Reports- Kushner met Russian ambassador, discussed possible back-channel for talks
On May 27, it was reported that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had spoken to Russia's ambassador to Washington, Sergei Kisylak, in December. During the meeting, Kushner discussed the possibility of creating a secret line of communication with Moscow, the New York Times and Washington Post reported. Kushner has reportedly been placed under FBI scrutiny under a larger investigation into Russian links.
Why did Kushner meet the Russian ambassador?
Kushner reportedly wanted to set up a back-channel for communication with Moscow through Russian diplomatic facilities in America, which could be used to discuss Syria and other issues. The back-channel was never established, according to reports. The meeting took place in December, before Trump was sworn in as president. Trump's disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn was reportedly present at the meeting.
Why is Kushner facing scrutiny?
It remains unclear what has drawn the FBI's interest into Kushner. Kushner is known to have met Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least once in December. Last year, he also met Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of Russian state-owned bank VneshEconomBank which has been under US sanctions since July 2014. Gorkov studied at Russian intelligence service FSB's training school.
Scrutiny doesn't mean Kushner is crime suspect
US officials said Kushner's scrutiny doesn't mean investigators suspect him of a crime or that he will be charged. Kushner's lawyer said his client would cooperate with investigators. Kushner had earlier agreed to discuss his Russian contacts with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has mounted own investigation. "Mr Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings," his lawyer said.
Trump administration officials say back-channels are "acceptable"
Senior Trump administration officials appeared to justify Kushner's alleged communication with Russia. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said attempts at establishing back-channels with foreign powers was "normal" and "acceptable." He said such communication "is a good thing" and is shared with government officials. Trump's National Security Advisor HR McMaster spoke generally to say the US has "back-channel communication with a number of countries."
FBI's probe enters Trump's family circle through Kushner
With the FBI placing Kushner under scrutiny, the bureau's investigation has moved from the White House's doorstep, into Trump's family circle. Last week, the Washington Post had reported that a senior White House official close to Trump was named "person of interest" by investigators but not identified. The term "person of interest," however, has no legal meaning.