National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he was “not concerned” by reports that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser Jared Kushner discussed establishing backchannel communications with the Kremlin during the transition, Politico reported Saturday.
“We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” McMaster told reporters at the G7 summit in Sicily. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so I’m not concerned.”
Despite McMaster’s calm, reports that dropped Friday in the Washington Post and Reuters added a new dimension to the sprawling Russia scandal, with Reuters labeling Kushner, a member of Trump’s inner circle, a “focus” of the federal probe into the Kremlin’s election interference.
Per the reports, Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak, about establishing a secret line of communications to avoid being monitored.
McMaster’s remarks did not mention that U.S. intelligence agencies had officially accused the Russian government of hacking the Democratic National Committee “to interfere with the US election process” in October, three months prior to Kushner’s reported conversation with Kislyak.
Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said he cannot recall such a conversation having occurred.
“Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period. He has no recollection of the calls as described,” Gorelick told Politico in a statement.
Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn declined to answer questions about Kushner, telling Politico, “We’re not going to comment on Jared.”