DHS chief says reported Russian back-channel not a 'big deal'

Bruno Cirelli
Mag 30, 2017

At the same time, Trump is frustrated with what he views as his team's inability to push back against the drumbeat of new revelations.

Meanwhile, White House counsel Donald McGahn is considering expanding his office, and an outside legal team led by Marc Kasowitz is preparing to meet with Trump and guide him, including on whether he should continue to comment on the Russian Federation investigations on Twitter.

A rally planned for Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to "an unforeseen change" in Mr Trump's schedule.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee - which is conducting one of the investigations into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation - repeated some Democrats' calls for a review of Kushner's security clearance.

The White House is considering restructuring its communications staff.

Several Democrats, including Senator Richard Durbin and Senator Cory Booker, said the reported Kushner meeting needs additional probing.

Graham added: "I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it!"

The team chose to communicate with Moscow through more official channels. The person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss private policy deliberations and insisted on anonymity. But Trump is known to turn to people with whom he is already comfortable.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, is being considered as a replacement behind the lectern.

Recently appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is starting off an investigation with a broad mandate that will allow him to probe both the possible Russian influence and whether Trump attempted to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey. The president said in a tweet that he would make a decision this week.

On Friday, the Washington Post, reported that Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak told his superiors that he had a conversation with Kushner and now-ousted security adviser Michael Flynn about using Russian facilities to establish backchannel communications between the Trump transition team and Russia. That's doubly true now because of questions about his dealings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and a banker close to Vladmir Putin. "You have got the ambassador to Russian Federation reporting back to Moscow on an open channel, 'Hey, Jared Kushner is going to move into the embassy.' I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it".

"It's clear that Jared Kushner will be under intense scrutiny at a time when his father-in-law has named him everything but chief cook and bottle washer", Democratic strategist David Axelrod, a former top White House adviser to President Barack Obama, told Politico.

Other major issues await Trump at home. Trump said he was thinking of "this Russian Federation thing" as he ousted Comey, who was in the fourth year of a 10-year term as head of the country's top criminal investigative agency. And the search continues for an Federal Bureau of Investigation director to replace Comey.

Trump's Sunday mini tweet storm represented a return to form for a president who largely refrained from tweeting anything provocative or controversial during his trip overseas last week.

Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser past year, overseeing the campaign's digital strategy. The members of this White House would feed each other to passing bears, if the opportunity arose.

And then Sunday night, the president returned to Twitter, pushing the Republican-proposed health care and tax measures before making it clear that he'd seen the reaction to his flurry of tweets Sunday.

Soon, Trump had fired off a message of his own on the subject.

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