The Washington Post recently added another layer to the Russia-Trump collusion conspiracy theory when it reported that President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, allegedly discussed with the Russian ambassador “the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.” Predictably, the sources for this claim were identified as nothing more than “U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.”
While the report sent all of the typical prima donnas to their fainting couches (Democrats and the Press), The Post’s report reaches far beyond Kushner, and has the potential to substantially undercut the Russia-Trump collusion conspiracy theory.
First, the obvious question is: if it is true that members of Trump’s campaign “colluded” with the Russians before the election, then why would team Trump be working to set up backchannel communications only after the election? Presumably, colluding with a foreign nation to win an election is no small feat, and would require some form of backchannel communications. So the idea that team Trump was seeking to establish a backchannel after the election calls into question the entire Russia-Trump “collusion” conspiracy theory, because there would be no need for Kushner to establish a backchannel that should have already existed.
Second, The Post’s characterization of the meeting has either been clarified or contradicted by further reporting.
ABC News further clarified that “the talk between Kushner and the Russian envoy about communications was focused on the U.S. response to the crisis in Syria and other policy-related matters.” This detail was omitted from The Post’s report.
The Post also alleged that it was Kushner that “made the proposal” to the Russians for a backchannel. However, Fox News filed a report on Monday that directly conflicts with that characterization of the meeting. According to the Fox News report, “[d]uring the meeting the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner . . .”
None of this is to suggest which, if any, report to believe, but it does call into question the reliability of anonymous sources and the veracity of their claims.
Third, and finally, it is worth noting that so-called “backchannel” communications (i.e., discreet and potentially beyond the reach of United States intelligence agencies) between United States officials and a foreign nation is quite common, even if the foreign nation is one “hostile” to the United States. For example, in 2008, candidate Obama sent a representative to Iran to inform the mullahs that, if elected, he would enact policies favorable to Iran. At the time, Iran was (and still is) designated a state-sponsor of terrorism and, according to a State Department report, had “arranged arms shipments including small arms and associated ammunition, rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107mm rockets, and plastic explosives to select Taliban members”—actions in direct conflict with American interests.
As President, Obama did change the course of American foreign policy to one less hostile towards Iran, as he promised. President Trump has made it no secret that he wants to normalize relations with Russia. Backchannel communications with each country were sought accordingly. Whatever the merits of these policy changes, the underlying fact is that each President is entitled to shape American foreign policy as he or she sees fit. And when going through the typical diplomatic channels would risk unnecessary leaks, as it does now, most people would choose a more private means of communication.
As the days and weeks go by it is becoming evident that the Russia-Trump conspiracy theory is and will forever remain just that—a conspiracy theory. Since the first “drip” of leaks regarding the Russia investigation, Democrats and their allies in the press have insisted that “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia did, in fact, occur during the 2016 election. The only problem that the purveyors of these accusations face is a self-admitted total lack of evidence.
And let’s be real, if such evidence did exist, we all know it would have been leaked by now.