In what has become an almost traditional Friday evening news dump, there are two absolutely bombshell reports about the Trump campaign and Russia that takes what is already a huge story to a whole new level. The Washington Post reports that Jared Kushner tried to set up a backchannel to Russia that would evade NSA snooping.
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed 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, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
This raises so many obvious questions.
Why the hurry? This was only weeks before Trump was to be sworn in, when they could have had a regular channel for such discussions.
What was so important to discuss that they needed to keep it secret even from our own intelligence services? That desire for secrecy is a huge red flag all by itself and it opens up all sorts of blackmail possibilities as well. The fact that they didn’t want the content of those communications to be known even at a classified level can only mean that what they wanted to discuss is something they knew would be very damaging if they were made public.
It’s hard to overstate how huge this new story is. With every new revelation I’ve watched as those who despise Trump (as I do) have claimed that this is what will bring Trump down, that it proves treason (it doesn’t, or even necessarily anything illegal at all), that he’s going to be impeached and go to prison, blah blah blah. And it has always seemed like nothing but wishful thinking. But this? I think this really could be the thing that brings him down. There’s just no way to explain it away that doesn’t say something so bad about Trump and his relationship with Putin that even most Republicans would find it difficult, if not impossible, to defend or ignore.