White House mulls 'war room' amid Russian Federation crisis

Owen Stevens
May 29, 2017

Returning late Saturday from his first foreign trip as president, Trump geared up to combat concerns over advisers ties to Russian Federation, including explosive reports about Jared Kushner, his indispensable aide-de-camp.

Mr Kushner has been widely criticised for his alleged request to the Russians to establish a backchannel. Beyond having his clearance revoked, such deception would also qualify Kushner for jail time.

Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka, had contacts with Moscow in December about opening a secret back channel of communications, according to news reports published while Trump was away on his trip. Kushner pledged to divest himself of his common stock and foreign investments when he took a role in the White House in January and resigned from 260 business entities, sold 58 business and put financial holdings into a trust being overseen by his mother, according to ABC News.

Kushner was joined by Michael Flynn, the retired general who would resign as Trump's national security adviser after reports that he secretly spoke with Kislyak about sanctions.

Before departing Italy for the U.S., White House officials refused to address the reports about Kushner.

"It is my opinion that numerous leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media", Trump wrote in one tweet. He unleashed a flurry of tweets, lashing out at what he called the "fake news" media. At the time, a White House official dismissed it as a brief courtesy meeting.

The administration had hoped Trump's nine-day turn in the global 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.

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Heightening concerns for the White House, Comey is expected to testify before Congress after Memorial Day about memos he kept on conversations with the president that pertained to the investigation. Flynn was sacked in February, officials saying he misled Vice President Mike Pence about whether he and the ambassador had discussed US sanctions against Russian Federation in a phone call.

The allegations dominated an end-of-trip briefing for reporters in Taormina, Italy, where Mr H R McMaster, the President's national security adviser, and Mr Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, declined to comment specifically on Mr Kushner but sought to play down the significance of the disclosures. "It allows you to communicate in a discreet manner".

In the days that followed, Trump allegedly made several snarky remarks about Kushner's family, the Times reported citing two aides.

Mr Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser previous year, overseeing the campaign's digital strategy, and remains an influential confidant within the White House as does his wife, Ivanka Trump.

The Washington Post and NBC each reported late Thursday that Kushner's interactions with Russian figures were of interest to the FBI, but that this did not mean he was a target of the investigation.

The wider investigation into Russian Federation s alleged election meddling is being led by Robert Mueller, a respected former FBI director who was given broad powers to pursue the case as a special counsel after Trump abruptly fired Comey on May 9.

Other reports by VgToday

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