'Fake news', screams Trump over Kushner's Russian links
29 May 2017
US President Donald Trump on Sunday once again attacked the media and dismissed leaks from the White House about his son-in-law Jared Kushner's Russian links as "fake news".
After returning late Saturday from his first foreign trip as president, Trump geared up to combat concerns over his advisers' ties to Russia, including explosive reports about Kushner, his apparently indispensable aide-de-camp.
Trump met with attorneys at the White House on Sunday, presumably over the latest development in the long-running Russia intelligence saga, news reports said.
Trump slammed the ''fabricated'' reports that his son-in-law tried to set up a secret channel of communications with Moscow before Trump took office.
US media said the White House is creating a new rapid-fire communications unit to respond to the controversy, led by Kushner, senior presidential adviser Steve Bannon and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
Trump, who had been unusually quiet on Twitter during his nine-day trip abroad, resumed with fury on Sunday, dismissing allegations of Russia ties as "fake news" and "fabricated lies."
"It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media," he wrote.
Shortly after Trump's remarks on Twitter, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly made the rounds of Sunday television news shows to praise any so-called back channel communications, especially with Russia, as "a good thing".
Other White House officials too defended the concept of secret communications channels without commenting specifically on the Kushner case. National security adviser H R McMaster told reporters on Saturday that so-called back-channeling was not unusual.
The Republican president returned to the White House after a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe to face more questions about alleged communications between Kushner and Russia's ambassador to Washington.
The White House faces mounting questions about potential ties between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign. The matter is also the subject of criminal and congressional investigations. Trump officials were preparing to establish a "war room" to address the issue that has begun to dominate his young presidency.
Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, had contacts with Moscow in December about opening a secret back channel of communications, according to news reports published while Trump was away on his trip.
The 36-year-old Kushner, a real estate developer with no previous government experience, had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, seven current and former US officials told Reuters. (See: Kushner had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy: report)
"Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don't mention names," Trump wrote, "it is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!"
Contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials during the campaign coincided with what US intelligence agencies concluded was a Kremlin effort through computer hacking, fake news and propaganda to boost Trump's chances of winning the White House.
US Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said such secret channels may be used in situations, including peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan or for the release of American hostages, "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."
Schiff was particularly concerned about a Washington Post report that the back channel would have been conducted at a Russian diplomatic facility to avoid monitoring in US communications systems. "You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversation from?" he said on ABC.
Schiff said he expected Kushner, who serves as an unpaid adviser to Trump, to appear before his committee and suggested his security clearance be reviewed.
Kushner initially had come to the attention of FBI investigators last year as they began scrutinising former national security adviser Michael Flynn's connections with Russian officials, Reuters quoted its sources as saying.