White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s reported efforts to set up a back-channel line of communication between the transition team of President Donald Trump and the Russian government is a “pretty bad breach,” Sen. Al Franken said Tuesday morning, that could be against the law and should prompt consideration about a revocation of his security clearance.
The Washington Post reported last Friday that Kushner proposed during an early December meeting with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. that a secret means of communication be created between the Kremlin and Trump’s transition team that would keep out the U.S. intelligence community. With the same goal in mind, Kushner reportedly suggested that meetings be held in Russian diplomatic facilities.
In an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Franken (D-Minn.) said Kushner, who is the president’s son-in-law, had failed to disclose his contacts with Russian officials, prompting anchor Charlie Rose to ask if that lack of disclosure was against the law.
“I think it is. I mean, you’re supposed to — in getting his security clearance, you’re supposed to list those, and then there’s this peculiar one where he is trying to set up a thing within the Russian communications system so that our own intelligence couldn’t be part of it, which is very unusual,” Franken said. “We’re going to be looking at this. You know, this might be — come out to when, you know, what did the president know and when did his son-in-law tell him?”
White House and Trump administration officials including counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and national security adviser H.R. McMaster have all defended Kushner’s actions as unconcerning and within the norms of White House work. But former national security officials have said Kushner’s reported efforts to circumnavigate U.S. intelligence in interactions between the Russians and the Trump transition team represent a significant and troubling break in protocol.
“This is a pretty bad breach,” Franken said when asked if Kushner’s security clearance should be taken away. “These guys, the administration, they’re not acting like people who have nothing to hide.”