Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'

Published:Monday | May 29, 2017 | 5:00 AM

WASHINGTON (AP):

Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.

Trump, having returned from a nine-day overseas trip, immediately railed against administration leaks, calling them "fabricated lies," in a flurry of tweets.

And his Homeland Security head defended the idea of establishing that kind of communication as a "smart thing" and said he didn't see "any big issue here" for Kushner.

But to the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, it's "obviously very concerning" that a key Trump campaign figure was possibly seeking secret communications with a country that intelligence experts say intervened in the 2016 election.

 

REVIEW SECURITY CLEARANCE

 

Representative Adam Schiff of California said the government needed to "get to the bottom" of the matter and urged a review of Kushner's security clearance "to find out whether he was truthful.

"If not, then there's no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance," Schiff said.

The Associated Press and other news organisations reported that Kushner, in December, proposed a back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team. Kushner spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about facilitating sensitive discussions to explore the incoming administration's options with Russia as it developed its Syria policy. The intent was to connect Trump's chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, a person familiar with the discussions told the AP. The person wasn't authorised to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.

Russia, a pivotal player in Syria, has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, often at the expense of civilians and at odds with US policy during Syria's long civil war.

The White House did not acknowledge the meeting or Kushner's attendance until March. At the time, a White House official dismissed it as a brief courtesy meeting.