President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner talked with the Russian ambassador in December about establishing a back channel for communications, ABC News has learned from two sources.
The sources stress that the talk between Kushner and the Russian envoy about communications was focused on the U.S. response to the crisis in Syria and other policy-related matters.
The meeting, as ABC News has reported previously, took place at Trump Tower in New York and was also attended by Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who later became President Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.
The Washington Post was the first to report that Kushner wanted to set up a secret back channel to communicate with Russian officials during the transition period between the election and Trump’s inauguration.
The Post report cited communications intercepted by U.S. intelligence officials as Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow.
Russia occasionally attempts to deliberately disclose misleading information when it believes it is being monitored, allowing for the possibility that the request from Kushner did not actually occur, the Post story noted.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was also present at the meeting between Kushner and Kislyak at which the ambassador “reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate,” the Post reported.
Reuters also reported Friday that Kushner had two phone calls with Kislyak before the election last year that he had not disclosed.
“Mr. Kushner participated in thousands of calls in this time period,” Kushner’s attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said in response. “He has no recollection of the calls as described. We have asked (Reuters) for the dates of such alleged calls so we may look into it and respond, but we have not received such information.”
This is not the first time reports of Kushner’s relationships with Russians have surfaced: Kushner and Flynn met with Kislyak together in Trump Tower in December, and Kushner later met with Sergey Gorkov, who runs a bank that drew sanctions from the Obama administration after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Kislyak has been at the center of contacts between Trump administration officials and Russia. The ambassador’s conversations with Flynn prior to Trump’s inauguration led to Flynn’s firing in February after it was revealed that Flynn misled White House officials about the nature of their discussions.
Meetings between Kislyak and Attorney General Jeff Sessions resulted in Sessions’ recusal from investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election and the ambassador was also present two weeks ago when President Trump revealed classified intelligence information during an Oval Office meeting.