Kellyanne Conway on Kushner outreach to Russia: ‘Back channels like this are the regular course of business’

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

Top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns over reports that Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, had proposed a secret back channel between Russia and the Trump transition team.

“Jared Kushner has said from the very beginning that he is willing to go and share any information that he has with Congress, with the FBI,” Conway said on “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday.

“As you heard [national security adviser] Gen. [H.R.] McMaster [and Homeland Security] Secretary [John] Kelly over this weekend say, they are not concerned. Back channels like this are the regular course of business,” Conway continued.

Both the Washington Post and Associated Press published reports about Kushner’s offer to the Kremlin over the weekend. Kushner reportedly proposed the secret communications link during a December meeting with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

On Saturday, McMaster asserted that such offers are normal.

“We have back-channel communications with any number of individual [countries]. So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner,” McMaster said. “So we’re not concerned about it.”

Related: Trump returns from foreign trip to familiar role: Tweeter in chief

On Sunday, Kelly similarly defended Kushner.

“I know Jared. He’s a great guy, decent guy,” Kelly said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “His No. 1 interest, really, is the nation, so you know there’s a lot of different ways to communicate — back-channel, publicly — with other countries. I don’t see any big issue here relative to Jared.”

Kelly also dismissed the idea that such communications between the United States and an adversary like Russia shows a lack of judgment.

“I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” he said.

Conway went on to say that President Trump has “expressed full confidence in Jared Kushner,” noting the “considerable progress” he’s made in the role and “very large, important portfolio that Jared oversees here at the White House.”

“Obviously, the relationships Jared was able to establish during the transition helped develop this phenomenal international trip that they just came back from,” Conway added.

The Trump administration has been dogged by a series of controversies related to Russia, and both Congress and the FBI are probing whether any Trump associates colluded with the Kremlin during the campaign. In February, Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for misleading Vice President Mike Pence and other White House officials about his own conversations with Kislyak.

Conway’s comments on “Fox & Friends” came the same day the New York Times reported that federal investigators probing Russia’s contacts with the Trump team are looking into Kushner’s mid-December meeting with a Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Citing current and former American officials, the Times said the meeting “may have been part of an effort by Mr. Kushner to establish a direct line to Mr. Putin outside of established diplomatic channels.”

The White House defended the meeting in a statement to the paper, saying Kushner “was acting in his capacity as a transition official.”

Following Conway’s appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump retweeted a Fox News report that said “the Russians broached the idea of using a secure line between the Trump administration and Russia, not Kushner.”

The story, which was published without a byline, cited an unnamed source “familiar with the matter.”

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