US President Donald Trump defended his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, on Sunday evening amid swirling allegations that Kushner sought a secret communications link to Russia. Trump said he had full confidence in Kushner and that he is a good person.
“Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person,” Trump said in a statement published by the New York Times.
The Times published another of its long reports detailing intrigues within the White House, including alleged recent tensions between Trump and Kushner.
According to the Times, the relationship had begun to fray earlier this month when Trump abruptly fired FBI director James Comey, a move Kushner strongly pushed according to reports, not anticipating the backlash, and over Kushner’s ongoing war with chief strategist Stephen Bannon and his alleged repeated attempts to see him gone. Press Secretary Sean Spicer was also in Kushner’s crosshairs, according to the report, which further indicated that Kushner in recent weeks has been present during the president’s dressing down of aides and advisers who have displeased him.
The main source of tension however, the Times reported citing two people with knowledge of the interaction, was a video earlier this month showing Kushner’s sister, Nicole Meyer, courting wealthy Chinese investors to buy stakes in real estate through a controversial government program that offers US residency in exchange for investment. The Times said at the time that the family business’ investment drive was also “highlighting their ties to Mr. Kushner as they court investors.”
The Times wrote Sunday that “For Mr. Trump, Ms. Meyer’s performance violated two major rules. Politically, it undercut his immigration crackdown, and in a personal sense, it smacked of profiteering off Mr. Trump — one of the sins that warrants expulsion from his orbit.”
In the days that followed, Trump allegedly made several snarky remarks about Kushner’s family, the Times reported citing two aides. Kushner did not respond.
Earlier Sunday, Trump lashed out against “fake news” on social media, as the disclosure this week-end of Kushner’s efforts for a back channel to Moscow put the White House on the defensive.
The administration had hoped Trump’s nine-day turn in the international spotlight as his first foreign trip unfolded would offer a respite from the 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.
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies,” Trump tweeted Sunday. He added: “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.”
Kushner’s involvement in the proposed back channel was first reported by The Washington Post on Friday, which said he suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities for the discussions, apparently to make them more difficult to monitor. The newspaper cited anonymous US officials who were briefed on intelligence reports on intercepted Russian communications.
The Post reported that Kislyak was taken aback by the 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 for as the Trump team.
Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser last year, overseeing the campaign’s digital strategy. He remains an influential confidant within the White House, as does his wife, Ivanka Trump.
Federal investigators and several congressional committees are looking into any connections between Russia and the Trump campaign, including allegations that there may have been collaboration to help Trump and harm his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The Senate intelligence committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, has requested information and documents from Trump’s campaign dating back to July 2015, the AP and other news outlets confirmed.