Jared Kushner wanted to create a back-channel communications link between President Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, according to alleged discussions reported Friday.
Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak told other officials in Moscow that Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, had suggested an off-the-grid way to talk after a meeting at Trump Tower that also included future — and now fired — National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, according to The Washington Post.
Kushner also had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak possibly as far back as April of last year, Reuters reported.
Friday night’s report about Kushner, based off information from U.S. officials, came the same day the Post reported the Senate Intelligence Committee probing alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election had requested documents from the Trump campaign
It’s the first time the Trump campaign itself has been brought into the investigations into the meddling and potential collusion that have accelerated in recent weeks — after the firing of FBI Director James Comey.
Comey confirmed his agency’s investigation in March and reportedly resisted pressure from Trump to end its look at Flynn.
Flynn and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort are believed to be targets of the investigation, though multiple outlets reported Thursday that Kushner was considered a person of interest.
Team Trump had previously confirmed the meeting between Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak, but said it was not out of the ordinary and dismissed questions about collusion as “fake news.”
The Post report Friday was based off of conversations Kislyak had with other Russian officials, and the Americans involved did not comment.
Kushner also had phone calls with Kislyak between April and November of last year, according to Reuters, though the adviser’s lawyer told the agency that his client “participated in thousands of calls” during the time in question and had “no recollection of the calls as described.”
She added that she had asked Reuters for the dates of the calls but did not receive an answer.
It is not unusual for incoming presidential administrations to meet with foreign leaders, though before the November call and the December meeting, the Kremlin had been accused of orchestrating a campaign to influence the November election.
A joint intelligence community report released in January said the effort was aimed at helping Trump.
There were at least 18 undisclosed calls between Trump associated and Kremlin associates in the period between April and November last year, Reuters reported, though it did not give details about when the contacts were or who was involved.
Kushner had originally failed to report his meeting with Vladimir Putin’s man in America on his application for a security clearance, but his lawyer said the documents were submitted prematurely and his client would inform authorities in an interview.
A potential backchannel between the Trump team and the U.S.’ former Cold War foe had previously been raised by a report in April, when the Post reported controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince, also Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ brother, had acted as a go-between in January.
Prince reportedly acted as an envoy for Trump in a secretive meeting with unidentified emissary from Putin in the Seychelles — remote islands in the Indian Ocean — though Prince and the White House denied that he was sent by the incoming administration.
The Post reported Friday that the Kushner-Kislyak conversation in December talked about a Trump representative meeting a “Russian contact.”
Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak, which also included a phone call on the day the Obama administration announced sanctions in retaliation for the alleged interference, contributed to his swift exit from the administration in its early days.
Trump says he demanded the former general’s resignation after he misrepresented the content of his call to Vice President Pence, who told reporters that the chat did not involve talk of sanctions.
Beyond the December Kislyak meeting, Kushner also met that month with Sergei Gorkov, the chairman of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, which is under sanction.
The President himself has talked about easing the economic punishments, which dragged Russia’s economy into recession after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014. White House adviser Gary Cohn said Friday that a move softening the sanctions is unlikely.
Before the Senate Intelligence Committee asked for documents from the Trump campaign, large parts of the Russia investigation made public so far have focused on Flynn, who is also accused of not reporting money he took from Kremlin-backed broadcaster RT.
Flynn, barred from taking payments as the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, refused earlier this week to cooperate with subpoenas from the Senate Intelligence Committee, invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not self-incriminate.
The former general has called the cyclone of news around his activities a “witch hunt” and suggested that he would talk if given immunity.
Paul Manafort, who left Trump’s campaign after reports that he received money off-the-books while working for a pro-Kremlin party in Ukraine, has also become a focus of the investigation, and reportedly received a subpoena over the loan for a Hamptons house he received while departing from the future President.
Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Putin, has also said that he is willing to speak with the congressional meddling inquiries if given immunity, the New York Times reported Friday.