By HOPE YEN and VIVIAN SALAMA | Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is defending an alleged effort by top White House adviser Jared Kushner to create back-channel communications with Russia as a “good thing,” while the Trump administration sought to quell mounting questions over secret ties to the Kremlin.
Speaking on Sunday’s news shows, Kelly said he didn’t know whether the reports by The Associated Press and other news outlets involving Kushner, who is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, were true. But Kelly said such back-channel communications don’t bother him and would not be harmful to U.S. security interests.
“It’s both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable,” Kelly said. “Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us, is a good thing.”
Congressional Democrats demanded to hear directly from Kushner over allegations of the proposed secret back-channel, saying his security clearance may need to be revoked. But Trump immediately railed against administration leaks in a flurry of tweets Sunday, calling them “fabricated lies.”
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 U.S. presidential election.
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.”
“If not, then there’s no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance,” Schiff said.
The AP and other news organizations reported that…
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Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Eileen Sullivan, Julie Bykowicz, Chad Day and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.