U.S. President Donald Trump's son-in-law proposed setting up a secret communications channel between Trump’s team and the Kremlin at a meeting with Russia’s ambassador in Washington after the election, media reported on May 26.
Ambassador Sergei Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that Jared Kushner made the proposal during a meeting on December 1 or 2 at Trump Tower in New York, according to intercepts of Russian communications, The Washington Post reported, citing anonymous U.S. officials.
Kislyak said Kushner, who is now a senior White House adviser and is married to Trump's daughter, Ivanka, suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications, the newspaper said. The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, who later became Trump’s national security adviser.
Reuters, also citing anonymous officials, reported that Kushner, Kislyak, and Flynn discussed setting up a back-channel of communications between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, though it did not provide details.
The White House disclosed the meeting between the Trump aides and Kislyak in March and played down its significance.
But the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of interest in its investigation into Russian attempts to influence the U.S. election, The Washington Post said.
Kushner met with the head of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, Sergei Gorkov, at Trump Tower, also in December. The bank has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014.
Reuters reported that FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions against Russia would allow such Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump.
Reuters also reported that Kushner had at least three previously undisclosed contacts with Kislyak during and after the 2016 presidential campaign, including two phone calls between April and November.
A Kushner attorney told Reuters he could not remember any of the undisclosed contacts, saying Kushner received "thousands of calls" during that time period.
The Washington Post said Kislyak was taken aback by Kushner's suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate -- a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
Besides setting up a communications back-channel, Kushner, Flynn, and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country, the newspaper reported.
The Washington Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met with a Putin representative on January 11 -- nine days before Trump’s inauguration -- in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean.
With reporting by The Washington Post and Reuters