Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret channel with Kremlin
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2.
According to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance.
People familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear.
A proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.
The White House declined to comment. Robert Kelner, a lawyer for Flynn, declined to comment. The Russian Embassy did not respond to requests for comment.
Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored.
The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.
The discussion of a secret channel adds to a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts.
Trump’s first national security adviser, Flynn, was forced to resign after a series of false statements about his conversations with Kislyak.
Kushner’s interactions with Russians were not acknowledged by the White House until they were exposed in media reports.
The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders.
Trump’s advisers were similarly secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates.
The Obama White House only learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner.
Russia would also have had reasons of its own to reject such an overture from Kushner.
Doing so would require Moscow to expose its most sophisticated communications capabilities.
The Post was first alerted in mid-December to the meeting by an anonymous letter.
This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence said the portion about the secret channel was consistent with their understanding of events.
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.