National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Saturday that he is “not concerned” with a report alleging that President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, asked Russia’s ambassador about setting up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin.
“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” McMaster said in a press conference in Italy.
“What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.”
Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, declined comment on Kushner, who serves as one of Trump’s closest advisers.
“We’re not going to comment on Jared,” Cohn said.
On Friday, The Washington Post reported that during a meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in early December, Kushner inquired about the possibility of communicating with the Kremlin outside of the detection of the U.S. government.
Kushner also reportedly asked whether he or other members of the Trump team could use Russian diplomatic facilities in the U.S. to conduct those communications.
Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, was also in the meeting, which occurred on Dec. 1 or Dec. 2.
Despite McMasters’ defense of using backchannel communications, Kushner’s suggestion is odd because the secure channel was intended to shield his communications from his own government.
The Post’s anonymous sources said that Kislyak was even taken aback by the suggestion. The newspaper noted that Russian diplomats would not want U.S. officials to have an inside look at how their communications systems are designed.
The Post’s report capped off a bad week for Kushner. On Thursday it was reported that he is a person of interest in the FBI’s sprawling Russia investigation. The 36-year-old adviser is reportedly not a target in the probe, but investigators are looking at his links to Russian businessmen.