I’m not sure what’s worse about this story. That Jared Kushner would actually suggest using Russian secure diplomatic communications facilities for a “back channel” to the Kremlin, or that someone in the U.S. intelligence community leaked that to the Washington Post.
I mean, both are really bad. For a man with Kushner’s background, a senior person in Trump’s inner circle during the campaign, and now an official government employee with (likely) a Top Secret SCI clearance, to have suggested this is beyond naïve. Kushner had to know what it meant, asking the Russians if their own secure diplomatic communications network could be used for “unofficial” back-channel discussions with Kremlin officials.
The meeting in which the alleged conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak occurred took place in December 2016, and came to light in March. At that time, Democrats called for Kushner’s security clearance to be revoked. Now, those calls have been renewed.
— DNC Press (@dncpress) May 26, 2017
I hate to side with anything Democrats–who are prone to blow up even the most innocuous situations into Constitutional crises–advocate. But in this case, if (and I do mean if, which will become clear below) there’s any truth to WaPo’s story, I have to agree. If Kushner suggested using Russian secure crypto gear–presumably to mask communications from prying American ears–he deserves to lose his clearance. He deserves to lose his job, actually.
That being said, I’m just as troubled that WaPo is reporting this.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, 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.
Without hyperbole, intercepts of Russian diplomatic communications between its U.S. ambassador and the Kremlin are the holy grail of classified. There’s nothing the Russians would love more than for the American press to go leaking details of what the U.S. intelligence community does and does not glean from their secure communications.
And this gem:
Russia at times feeds false information into communication streams it suspects are monitored as a way of sowing misinformation and confusion among U.S. analysts. But officials said that it’s unclear what Kislyak would have had to gain by falsely characterizing his contacts with Kushner to Moscow, particularly at a time when the Kremlin still saw the prospect of dramatically improved relations with Trump.
The fact that (a) whoever within the IC leaked this information to reporters didn’t think it could be a red herring (pardon the pun) to mess with our government and our citizens’ confidence in it, and (b) the reporters getting the information didn’t hesitate to expose it is extremely disconcerting to me.
The “leak problem” that has plagued Trump since he took office has really hit new lows with this one. Maybe it’s revenge for Trump’s imprudent comments to Kislyak and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov that exposed some Israeli intelligence on ISIS. Maybe it’s part of the “deep state” and efforts to effect what the conspiracy fringe calls a “silent coup” on Trump.
But it’s more likely simply that some people in the IC, or at various levels of government with access to bits and pieces of information being reviewed by the FBI and the Department of Justice, have friends in the media, and love to be Mark Felt (Deep Throat) for a day. They don’t think about the potential consequences of their actions (the leakers or the reporters).
They probably only think that it will embarrass Trump and make it more likely Democrats will be in power again faster because of this. It’s just partisan hackery and selfishness. In the end, both the fact of what was disclosed, and the disclosure itself harm American interests. They harm confidence in our government.
And they might hamstring, or remove, probably the only man in the West Wing who has Trump’s ear, consistently and many times, with a voice of sanity and moderation. If Kushner did what WaPo alleged, he’ll likely end up where Michael Flynn is–exiled. But this one is much more pernicious and malicious by the media and by the leakers.
President Trump would do well to find and plug these leaks quickly and permanently.