Russia probe pierces inner circle of Trump, shaking White House
The probe into Russia’s role in the U.S. election pierced the innermost circle of the White House on May 27, with reports that Donald Trump’s son-in-law sought a secret communications line with Moscow - the most damning allegation yet from the scandal.
With the president now back in Washington after a grueling overseas trip, the latest furor was stirred up after The Washington Post reported late on May 26 that Jared Kushner - arguably Trump’s closest White House aide, and husband to the president’s eldest daughter Ivanka - made a pre-inauguration proposal to the Russian ambassador to set up a secret, bug-proof link with the Kremlin.
Kushner, 36, suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States to protect such a channel from monitoring, The Post said, quoting U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
The report, if confirmed, would raise new questions about the Trump team’s relationship with the Russians, who U.S. intelligence agencies say tried to sway the November election in Trump’s favor. News reports said the White House, reeling from the explosive developments in the long-running Russia saga, is creating a new rapid-fire communications unit to respond to the controversy, led by Kushner, senior presidential adviser Steve Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
White House officials declined to comment on May 27. Trump returned to Washington late on May 27 from his first overseas trip, to the Middle East and Europe. Accompanied by first lady Melania, Trump waved to reporters as he made his way into the White House but made no comment.
“We’re not going to comment on Jared, we’re just not going to comment,” said Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, during a press conference in Italy as a G-7 summit wound down.
National Security Advisor HR McMaster refused to talk about the allegations. But he said that in general, “We have backchannel communication with a number of countries. What that allows you to do is communicate in a discrete manner
But a former head of the U.S. National Security Agency harshly condemned Kushner’s alleged effort to set up a secret communications line, saying if it’s true, it would reveal a dangerous degree of ignorance or naiveté.
“What manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt would you have to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or appropriate idea?” Michael Hayden said on CNN.