National Security Advisor Gen. H.R. McMaster said he’s “not concerned” following reports that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner may have discussed setting up diplomatic backchannels to Moscow during the presidential transition.
McMaster told American reporters traveling with Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily that the U.S. frequently sets up backchannels to countries for discreet communications.
“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” McMaster said in response to questions.
“What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.”
Chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, a close Kushner ally, declined to answer questions about Kushner. “We’re not going to comment on Jared,” he said.
The Washington Post reported Friday that Kushner sought to establish secret communications with the Kremlin during a transition meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Per the Post, 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.
The New York Times reported that the purpose of the channel was to allow then-national security adviser Michael Flynn to communicate directly with Moscow about Syria and other security issues. The lines were never set up, the Times reported.
Flynn, who is under investigation, was dismissed in February amid reports that he lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the extent of his contacts with Kislyak.
According to Reuters, Kushner also held at least two phone calls between April and November of last year with Kislyak, who’s represented Russian President Vladimir Putin in Washington since 2008.
“Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described,” Kushner’s lawyer Jamie Gorelick told POLITICO in a statement.
“We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information," Gorelick added.