Kelly defends plan for Russia back channel as a 'good thing'

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on December 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by USA officials.

The back channel was meant to connect Michael Flynn, who later became Trump's first national security adviser, with Russian military leaders, said the person, who wasn't authorized to publicly discuss private policy considerations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, 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. "And the other pattern we have is just a continuous drumbeat of inappropriate contacts with the Russians".

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".

He added: "Ultimately we're going to want Mr Kushner to come before the committee and I fully expect that to happen". "Generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner".

Reid's dismissal may have been one of the most surprising, as chief usher is as far away from a political role as any in the White House. The White House described Yates as having "betrayed the Department of Justice".

While taxes have taken a back seat in recent weeks, Trump tweeted Sunday: "The massive TAX CUTS/REFORM that I have submitted is moving along in the process very well, actually ahead of schedule".

Trump was meeting with attorneys at the White House on Sunday, presumably over the latest development in the long-running Russian Federation intelligence saga, news reports said.

"Whenever you see the words "sources say" in the fake news media, and they don't mention names it is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers".

US intelligence intercepted dispatches from Ambassador Sergey Kislyak telling his superiors about the talks.

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. He'd been angling to keep that job under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to the Washington Post. Flynn was sacked in February, officials saying he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed USA sanctions against Russian Federation in a phone call. Officials said he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed US sanctions against Russian Federation in a phone call.

Then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was sacked hours after ordering the Justice Department not to defend Trump's executive order on immigration and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations.

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

Dubke resigned just before Trump left on his foreign trip but will stay on "until a transition is concluded", Reince Priebus, the White House's chief of staff, said.

Reuters has reported that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak past year, including two phone calls between April and November.

A wider overhaul is expected, aimed at more aggressively responding to allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and revelations of possible ties between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Other potential staff changes could be in the works, according to Axios News, which first reported Dubke's departure, including fewer on-camera news briefings by Spicer, the White House press secretary.

  • Audrey Hill