Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly, the lone administration official to speak out publicly about reports that Jared Kushner sought a back channel to communicate with the Russian government, defended the move, saying it was a “good thing” for the U.S. government.
“It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable,” Kelly said of the reports that Kushner made the request for a secret communications channel to the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition. “ Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us is a good thing.”
Kelly made the comments on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” and he reiterated them in two other appearances on Sunday-morning news broadcasts.
Kelly rejected the idea that such a back channel of communication with Russian officials would be damaging to U.S. security interests.
“Any channel of communications, back or otherwise, is a good thing,” he said on “Fox News Sunday,” suggesting that he did not know the facts behind the reported December discussions between Kushner and Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States. “It doesn't bother me.”
Kelly said that if such a line of communication was set up, the critical thing would have been for Kushner and other transition officials to understand that the information provided by the Russians might be intentionally false.
“They may be working you,” he said.
Kelly said he was not sure whether the reports that Kushner had proposed using Russian diplomatic facilities for such communications were true. But he said that as long as the information was shared with the U.S. government, it didn't represent a problem.
“Just because you have a back channel, if indeed that's what Jared was after, doesn't mean that he then keeps everything secret,” Kelly said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” “I mean, he shares that.”
“Back-channel communications with people are ways to communicate with people, again, not in front of the press, as an example, but that information is not necessarily kept secret from the rest of the government,” Kelly added.
Paul Kane contributed to the report.