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Kelly Defends Plan for Russia Back Channel

Kelly Defends Plan for Russia Back ChannelKelly Defends Plan for Russia Back Channel

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is defending an alleged effort by top White House adviser Jared Kushner to create back-channel communications with Russia, describing it as a “good thing” as the Trump administration sought to quell mounting questions over secret ties to the Kremlin.

Speaking on Sunday’s news shows, Kelly said he didn’t know whether the reports by AP and other news outlets involving Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, were true. But he said such back-channel communications don’t bother him and would not be harmful to US security interests, AP reported.

“It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable,” Kelly said. “Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”

Congressional Democrats demanded to hear directly from Kushner over allegations of the proposed secret back channel, saying his security clearance may need to be revoked. But Trump immediately railed against administration leaks in a flurry of tweets on Sunday, calling them “fabricated lies”.

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said it was “obviously very concerning” if a key Trump campaign figure was possibly seeking secret communications during the transition period with a country that intelligence experts say intervened in the 2016 US presidential election.

Schiff said the government needed to “get to the bottom” of the matter and urged a review of Kushner’s security clearance “to find out whether he was truthful”.

“If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said.

The AP and other news organizations reported that Kushner in December proposed a back channel between the Kremlin and the Trump transition team.

Kushner spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about facilitating sensitive discussions to explore the incoming administration’s options with Russia as it developed its Syria policy.

The intent was to connect Trump’s chief national security adviser at the time, Michael Flynn, with Russian military leaders, a person familiar with the discussions told AP.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity.

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