Hotline to the Kremlin: first Erik Prince, now Jared Kushner

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Look like someone you can trust?

It came out last week that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House jack-of-all-trades, discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.

Some have tried to make this seem like no big deal, as if it were business-as-usual. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster made the regrettable statement that he was “not concerned” about Kushner setting up back channel communications with the Russians, elaborating, “We have backchannel communications with a number of countries.” This is unfortunate because McMaster is seen by many as one of the few sane minds in Trump’s administration. Looks like he might be jumping the shark. I think it’s obvious that seeking secret communications with Russia should be extremely concerning.

If it was true that Kushner was trying to establish such communications with Russia, then one must ask, from whom is he trying to keep the communications secret? He must have known that communications with Russian officials in the United States are closely monitored by the FBI, and the NSA is watching overseas communications. It seems obvious to me that Kushner is trying to hide communications from the US goverment and its intelligence agencies and I cannot fathom any above-board reason for this.

Also, we should not forget that this attempt to create a secret hotline to Russia is not new: it was reported in April by the Washington Post that Erik Prince attempted to create a backchannel to Russia in a secret meeting with a close friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles earlier this year. Prince is known for founding the now-defunct private military company Blackwater and is the brother of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. He is also an avid supporter of Donald Trump, contributing $250,000 to Trump’s election campaign.

Trump’s ties to Russia seem to become more damning every day. Sure, some point out that there is no evidence of collusion between Trump and the Russians during the 2016 election, but it sure looks like we are getting closer to finding some. I think it’s too much to expect any sort of “smoking gun,” but I can’t think of any way for Trump’s people to make this look even halfway good.

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