President Trump returned from a nine-day international tour on Saturday—a day after the Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and senior aide, suggested a secret “back channel” communication allegedly during a meeting with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Kushner was a private citizen at the time of seeking ways to initiate a back channel between Russia and the Trump transition team in December 2016.
The White House defended Kushner’s action over the weekend, stating that previous administrations have used back channels. To mitigate Kushner’s actions, they stated that back channel communications are acceptable in building a dialogue with foreign governments.
Former administration officials on Sunday said that the use of back channels, specifically during a presidential transition could send confusing messages that could be used as manipulation by a foreign power.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday called for a review of White House Advisor Jared Kushner’s security clearance in light of a report that he sought to establish back channel communications with Moscow.
“There’s another question about his security clearance and whether he was forthcoming about his contacts on that,” Schiff told ABC’s “This Week.”
The allegations of key members of President Trump’s administration with possible ties to Russia and multiple investigations into Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election, has the White House on defense.
Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, Trump official, speaking on behalf of the White House on ABC News ‘This Week’, characterized reports that Kushner might have sought such back-channel communications was “a good thing.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster in a news conference in Sicily in defense of Kushner said, “It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable.”
Foreign policy experts and former officials were quick to point out through a Washington Post interview that such a request of the Russians would have been inappropriate.
Any efforts on the part of Trump’s transition team would have interfered with the practice of “one president at a time,” which meant that unless carefully coordinated with the Obama administration. The outgoing administration would head foreign affairs until inauguration day.
President Trump faces significant pressure because of the FBI and several congressional committee’s investigations of contacts between Trump aides and Russian officials.
According to press reports citing anonymous sources, the White House is currently working on a new public relations operation war room—to address ongoing Russia ties allegations. Trump reportedly is evaluating ways that his administration communicates with both the press and public.
This measure, reported by the Washington Post, signifies a smaller role for press secretary Sean Spicer, more campaign-style rallies and the possible return of Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager last year.