MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle was taken aback on Monday when an analyst for the network insisted that President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a Russian agent.
“You really think he wants to be a Russian agent? I mean that’s kind of a stretch,” Ruhle said during her exchange with Naveed Jamali, an MSNBC analyst who has written about his work as a former FBI double agent.
Jamali weighed in on the latest reports that Kushner proposed opening up a secret backchannel with the Russian government during a December meeting at Trump Tower with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
Kushner, who is one of Trump’s closest advisers, is reportedly a person of interest — though not a target — in the FBI’s probe of Russian election meddling.
But Kushner’s backchannel request, which was reported Friday, has raised questions about his motives as well as his suitability for a top White House post.
Jamali insisted that Kushner’s request, which was ultimately not implemented, leads to only one conclusion: “This man was either a Russian agent, either aspiring to be a Russian agent or was in fact a Russian agent.”
“You think Jared Kushner was a Russian agent?” Ruhle asked incredulously.
“Absolutely,” Jamali responded.
“Why would he be a Russian agent?” Ruhle pressed, adding, “that’s a major allegation.”
Jamali asserted that agents of foreign governments often go down a path toward treason “and they’re not even aware they’re going down that path.”
“This is how it happens,” he explained. “In this case, I think, it could have been, perhaps, an innocent decision to try to make contact with them. And that’s how you start these things,” said Jamali.
“The term ‘Russian agent’ perhaps is not what people think of in the movies,” he added.
“When you have someone who fails to register as a foreign agent, for example, that is what I’m talking about. This could be someone who started a relationship that was frankly inappropriate, that skirted the law, and then it made a hard-left turn.”
It’s not clear how Kushner would be considered a Russian agent under Jamali’s criteria.
Legally, a foreign agent is anyone who acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or foreign government official.
There has been no evidence presented so far that Kushner sought to advance the interests of the Russian government by seeking to open a backchannel to the Kremlin.
Anonymous White House officials have told reporters that Kushner’s backchannel request was part of a diplomatic effort to address the fight in Syria.