Former CIA Director Criticizes Jared Kushner Alleged Over Back Channel Links to Russia
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - US President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner's alleged back channel links to Russia would have been considered spying if they had been set up by an intelligence officer, George W Bush's former CIA director has said.
Speaking on MSNBC's The Last Word, John McLaughlan said the first reaction among the intelligence community would be to ask: "Is this a prank?"
Mr. McLaughlan said, providing the allegations were true: "I don’t want to overstate because obviously there is a lot we don’t know. We don’t know the exact content of the conversation. We don't know the objective that was stated from the Kushner side during the conversation, those things we don't know.
"But I can't keep out of my mind the thought that, if an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we'd consider it espionage."
Mr. Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and a top White House adviser, reportedly proposed a secret back channel between the Kremiln and the Trump transition team during a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the US in December, Independent reported.
Mr. Kushner spoke with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about creating that line of communication to facilitate sensitive discussions aimed at exploring the incoming administration's options with Russia as it was developing its Syria policy, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.
The intent was to connect Mr. Trump's chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, the source said.
Russia, a pivotal player in Syria, has backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, often at the expense of civilians during a long civil war.
The White House did not acknowledge the meeting or Mr. Kushner's attendance until March.
At the time, a White House official dismissed it as a brief courtesy meeting.
Mr. Kushner's involvement in the proposed back channel was first reported by The Washington Post, which said he proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities for the discussions, apparently to make them more difficult to monitor.
The newspaper cited anonymous US officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications.
The Post reported Mr. Kislyak 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.
According to the person familiar with the Kushner meeting, the Trump team eventually felt there was no need for a back channel once Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state, which took place 1 February. The team decided to communicate with Moscow through more official channels.
Mr. Flynn served briefly as Trump's national security adviser before being fired in February. Officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed US sanctions against Russia in a phone call.
Mr. Kushner is now reportedly a focus of the ongoing investigation into Russian collusion in Mr. Trump's election campaign over the meetings he had with Mr. Kislyak and a Russian banker.