DHS Chief: ‘I Don’t See Any Big Issue’ If Kushner Tried To Set Up Backchannel

Andrew Harnik/AP

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on Sunday said he does not “see any big issue” with reports that senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, sought to set up backchannel communications with the Kremlin before Trump’s inauguration.

“I know Jared. He’s a great guy, decent guy. His number one interest, really, is the nation, so you know there’s a lot of different ways to communicate, backchannel, publicly with other countries,” Kelly told Chuck Todd on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

He said Kushner made those efforts “before the government was in place during the transition period, I think, from what I understand.”

“And I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” Kelly said. “I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.”

The Washington Post and Reuters reported Friday that Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to the United States discussed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and Moscow.

Kushner suggested setting up the secure backchannel, according to the report, and even proposed using communications equipment in stateside Russian diplomatic facilities.

“Had you ever, in your lifetime of government service, both in the military and outside of it, had you ever used another government’s communications facility though?” Todd asked Kelly. “The idea of sort of going around American communications?”

“Well, no, but I didn’t have to,” Kelly replied. “I mean in my previous life, we wouldn’t do that kind of thing, but you know, politics being what they are — a better way to put it, not politics, but the kind of interaction here in Washington. There’s a lot of ways to communicate with people.”

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Esme Cribb is a newswriter for TPM in New York City. She can be found on Twitter @emquiry and reached by email at esme@talkingpointsmemo.com.

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