“This is way beyond a private server”: Four questions on Kushner’s “back channel” to Russia
“Intel pros tell Business Insider they can’t believe it. Not the fact that Kushner and Team Trump would want a “back channel” to Moscow; that happens all the time when governments (in this case a government-in-waiting) want to speak frankly about potential policy shifts without public pressure. What they can’t believe is that Kushner allegedly wanted to do it using the Russians’ own secure communication apparatus. The only reason to do that would be to hide the conversation from U.S. intelligence, which is listening in on all of Russia’s less secure lines.
Why would Kushner be worried about the feds knowing what he was saying to the Kremlin?
Another former CIA analyst made the same point: If he’d tried to do an end-around federal surveillance in talking to Russia, he’d have been booked for espionage. “This is way beyond a private server,” said a former FBI counterintelligence specialist to BI. “This is doing US government diplomatic business over a foreign government’s communication system. It’s not an off-the-record conversation. It’s a conversation recorded by the opposing party.”
That’s question one, the big one — why did Kushner want to use Russian diplomats’ secure line to Moscow instead of some official means of communication monitored by the U.S. government? And why did he reportedly conceal the extent of his contact with Russian officials? If all of this is no big deal, it’s odd that Jared seems to have been highly allergic to the public finding out about any of it. Imagine the havoc it would have wreaked if he were spotted walking into a Russian diplomatic building during the transition to use their red line to Putin. The whole reason Flynn was dumped, per Sally Yates, was that the Russians could have blackmailed him by using their own recording of him talking sanctions with Kislyak against him. Now here’s Jared wanting to use the Russians’ own line to discuss sensitive matters. What could go wrong?
In the end, though, everything comes back to question one. Why did Kushner try to hide his “back channel” to Moscow from U.S. intelligence? There are two theories kicking around, one suggesting corruption and the other pointing to dunderheadedness. The corruption theory holds that Kushner didn’t really want to discuss Syria with Russia, that that’s just a cover story fed to the Times last night to make this seem less suspicious. What he wanted to talk about was money.
One last note: Even Reuters’s sources, amid hint-hinting at a corruption possibility for Kushner’s actions, admit that “so far they have not seen evidence of any wrongdoing or collusion between the Trump camp and the Kremlin.” As shady as Kushner’s behavior looks, there’s still nothing like a smoking gun pointing to malfeasance rather than incompetence. Exit question: Is there really such a thing as a “secure line” in Russia’s diplomatic facilities that Kushner could have used to talk privately with Moscow, without U.S. intelligence knowing? Given the NSA’s powers, it’s hard to believe they haven’t cracked that nut yet. Which means Kushner’s lucky that the “secret channel” never came to be. American spies probably would have heard every “secret” word that he or Flynn said to the Kremlin.”
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