White House senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak about creating a secret and secure communications channel between President Trump's transition team and Moscow, according to a report published Friday evening.
The duo had discussed using Russian diplomatic facilities in America to keep their talks out of the public eye where U.S. intelligence officials would be able to pick up the private chats, the Washington Post reported.
Kislyak told Russian government officials that Trump's son-in-law, Kushner, proposed the idea on Dec. 1 or 2 while meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan, where Trump later claimed his campaign was the victim of wiretapping by the Obama administration. The Russian ambassador was said to have been stunned by Kushner's proposal.
A former senior intelligence official said the FBI would have been aware if a White House official regularly visited the embassy and would have found the activity suspicious even if they did not know the topic of conversation.
Mike Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, also attended the meeting. The December meeting was previously known about because Flynn was forced out of his job as a result of meeting with Kislyak. However, until Friday, it was not known that Kushner had also attended the meeting and made this offer.
During that meeting, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also discussed setting up a meeting between a Trump representative and a "Russian contact" in another country.
The Post said it learned about this in a tip in mid-December, and that unnamed officials this week claim the conversation of a backchannel matched their understanding of events. In April, the paper published a report that former founder of Blackwater private security, Erick Prince, and an informal Trump campaign adviser met a Russian representative in the Seychelles islands on Jan. 11, which could be the meeting the Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak set up a month earlier.
A follow-up report from the New York Times said that a secret communications channel with the Russians was initially thought up as a way for Flynn to stay in contact about the Syrian war. The report said further that Kushner backed off the idea of a backchannel after Trump picked Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state as Tillerson had a history of working with the Russians as head of Exxon Mobil.
The incident involving Kushner sends the administration further into controversy as it attempts to explain why Trump would have needed a secret channel to Russia.
Trump's team has previously been secretive about meetings with the United Arab Emirates. The Trump transition team had the crown prince of Abu Dhabi fly to Manhattan in December to visit Trump, but never informed the Obama White House that a foreign dignitary was headed to the U.S.