Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, pressed on White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s reported attempts to establish secretive lines of communication with Russia during the presidential transition, said any such channels of communication are “a good thing.”
While not confirming reports that Kushner discussed with Russian officials how to create secret back channels of communication that escaped potential U.S. monitoring, Kelly said that any attempts to strengthen dialogue with Russia were a positive.
“I don’t know if it is true or not, I know it’s being reported in the press,” Kelly said on "Fox News Sunday," before being told by anchor Chris Wallace that the network had confirmed that the discussion between Kushner and Russian officials had taken place.
“I think that any channel of communication back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me.”
The White House was rocked on Friday by reports that Kushner, a top presidential adviser and the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, sought private lines of communication with Russian officials that would have evaded U.S. monitoring. Numerous former national security officials have since raised concerns about the reported conversation, questioning the legality of such a move.
Kelly on Sunday, however, cast the alleged communications as a relationship-building effort.
“Multiple ways to communicate back and forth is a good way to communicate with any country,” he said, while cautioning: “You just have to assume that what you’re getting may or may not be true, they may be working you.”
Kelly also addressed the timing of the conversations, which reportedly took place before Kushner and the Trump transition team took office. The secretary of defense said that as long as Kushner did not “do anything to inhibit the Obama transition,” he did not see any issues.
“As they begin to build relationships [with the Russians], there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said.