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

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

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump headed home early from President Donald Trump's global trip, and the official line was that Kushner had worked on the first three stops and wasn't an integral player as the agenda moved on.

Instead, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly - echoing a position taken a day before by national security advisor H.R. McMaster - said there was nothing inherently wrong with an incoming presidential administration establishing "back channel" communications with a foreign power such as Russian Federation.

He said the United States could not necessarily trust messages from Russian Federation, but would include this distrust as another "data point" in White House deliberations.

Trump, who had been uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter during his nine-day trip overseas, resumed his favorite past-time with fury on Sunday, dismissing allegations of Russian Federation ties as "fake news" and "fabricated lies".

'It is my opinion that numerous leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies, ' he tweeted. "#FakeNews is the enemy!" the USA leader wrote, spelling errors and all.

The administration had hoped Trump s nine-day turn in the worldwide spotlight would offer a respite from relentless coverage of an ever-widening probe into Russian meddling in a year ago s election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign - with its endless barrage of newspaper scoops and explosive revelations.

However, the eve of his return brought the biggest story to date: A Washington Post report about Kushner's alleged proposal to the Russians to create a secret channel out of the reach of USA spymasters.

Administration officials close to US President Donald Trump have been pushing Kushner to step aside while the FBI investigates meetings that Kushner had with Russian figures during the transition period following the November election, ABC News first reported on Sunday.

Meanwhile, a parade of senior administration officials tried to downplay the story, saying it was not all that unusual to establish "back-channel" ties with a foreign government.

Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner should have his security clearance reviewed after the revelation that he allegedly spoke with a Russian ambassador, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat has said. "I would not be concerned about it".

His comments were echoed by the administration s Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

Kelly said that such back channels would be considered "both normal... and acceptable".

Trump lashes out at media after ducking press questions on trip
President Donald Trump on Sunday continued his war on the "fake news" media by accusing reporters broadly of making up sources. In his Sunday tweets, the president also referred to his worldwide trip, saying "Just returned from Europe".

"But for people associated with the campaign after that campaign has ended and where the Russians during that campaign were helping you, to try to establish a back channel and hide it from your own government, that's a serious allegation", he said.

But to the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, it's "obviously very concerning" that a key Trump campaign figure was possibly seeking secret communications with a country that intelligence experts say intervened in the 2016 election.

"You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?" Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) said on ABC's "This Week," but not in the context of serious concerns about Russia's meddling in the USA presidential campaign.

Aides say Trump is expected to meet with lawyers, the New York Times reports.

The testimony came the day after Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Mr Kelly told Fox News Sunday there was nothing wrong with the Trump transition team trying to build relationships with the Russians as they prepared to take over the White House.

He is the only person now in the White House known to be under investigation.

Schiff said he shared this point of view and also left the door open to contempt.

The wider investigation into Russian Federation s alleged election meddling is being led by Robert Mueller, a respected former FBI director who was given broad powers to pursue the case as a special counsel after Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9.

"We're chasing our tails as a nation when it comes to the Russians", Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN.

Regarding Kushner, former FBI agent Jim Treacy said Friday: "If there is an investigation on anybody, would other folks around that person be of interest to the FBI as far as being interviewed?" "The whole story line is suspicious".

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