For months, the “drip, drip” of new information regarding purported ties between Russia and the Trump campaign has been steady. We have learned about in-person meetings, phone calls, and texts between Russian officials and Trump associates including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, and Jared Kushner.
These revelations have been characterized by many as “smoke” as opposed to “fire” – that is, they seem to indicate some type of relationship between the Trump team and Russia, but do not yet prove anything illicit or nefarious. All that may have changed Friday night, when the Washington Post and the New York Times reported that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and most trusted adviser, sought to establish secret backchannel communications directly to the Kremlin.
Citing the Post and the Times, Politico reported: “Kushner sought to establish secret communications with the Kremlin during a transition meeting with [Russian ambassador Sergey] Kislyak…. Kislyak said he talked to Kushner about installing secure lines between the Trump transition and Russian officials at foreign facilities to avoid conversations being monitored.”
“[T]he purpose of the channel was to allow then-national security adviser Michael Flynn to communicate directly with Moscow.” As of Saturday morning, Kushner’s legal team has not denied these explosive reports.
The seriousness of Kushner’s actions cannot be understated. National security experts have weighed in, calling Kushner’s activities “unthinkable” and a threat to Donald Trump’s hold on the presidency.
The Democratic National Committee issued a statement asking the obvious: “The next question is whether the president authorized this, because no one stands between Trump and Kushner in the chain of command.” In a development that may or may not be related, Donald Trump on Saturday hastily canceled a campaign style rally that was to take place in Iowa next week.