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'Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S.'

02 Juin 2017

John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he is disturbed by recent media reports suggesting President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner had proposed the creation of a secret backchannel in which the Trump transition team could converse with Moscow.

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election, Mr Robert Mueller, is getting down to work quickly, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The Washington Post reported last week that Kushner and Russian Ambassador Surgey Kislyak met at Trump Tower in December to discuss the possibility of setting up secret, back-channel communications between the President's transition team and officials in Moscow.

Why did Kushner make the request of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak?

- White House communications director Mike Dubke said Tuesday he is resigning.

"I don't like it", the Republican lawmaker said Monday in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "7:30" when asked about President Donald Trump's son-in-law's possible ties to Russian Federation.

The news website Politico called Kushner the White House's " lead distraction" following what is being seen as Trump's mostly successful first foreign trip, which featured a stopover in Israel. Nevertheless, Kushner has reportedly been urged to keep a low profile as Trump prepares to reset his agenda following his return from overseas.

Kushner's involvement in the proposed back channel was first reported by The Washington Post, which said he suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the discussions, apparently to make them more hard to monitor.

It is not clear whether Kushner saw the Russian banker as someone who could be repeatedly used as a go-between or whether the meeting with Gorkov was aimed at establishing a direct, secure communications line to Putin. He said there was also a big question as to what role Mr Kushner should have.

Kushner's reasoning for setting up the private channel outside of official diplomatic channels was to primarily discuss how the US and Russian Federation could cooperate on ending the civil war in Syria and other policy issues, sources told The New York Times, but the FBI and congressional investigation is looking into whether other items were to be discussed.

Mr Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that generally speaking, "we have back-channel communication with a number of countries".

But people familiar with the matter say the Federal Bureau of Investigation now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest. But Trump immediately railed against administration leaks in a flurry of tweets Sunday, calling them "fabricated lies". Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. The person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.

Meanwhile, Kelly said any such discreet channels of communication could only be a good thing, and it doesn't bother him, in an interview with Fox News.

'Russian officials must be laughing at the U.S.'