Fearing a total wipe out in the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans have joined Donald Trump in defending the administration’s ties to Russia.
Following a Washington Post article which said Jared Kushner sought to set up a secret line of communication with Russia during the presidential transition, President Donald Trump went on the offensive Sunday, doing what he does best: Blame the media.
After returning from his embarrassing trip to the Middle East and Europe to growing scandals at home over his administration’s communications with Russian officials, Trump took to Twitter to attack the news media.
“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” Trump said on Twitter
It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2017
The administration also dispatched a retired four-star Marine general — Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly — to defend Kushner on the Sunday news talk shows.
“I don’t see a big deal,” Kelly, the former head of U.S. Southern Command, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think any channel of communication back or otherwise with a country like Russia is a good thing.”
Trump National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, a three-star Army general, also defended Kushner, telling reporters that back-channel communications are normal, according to Reuters.
“We have back-channel communications with any number of individual” countries, McMaster said. “So generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner.”
Top Republicans, meanwhile, downplayed the reports about Kushner — with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) joining Trump in casting doubt on the news media, Politico Reported Sunday.
“I think it makes no sense that the Russian ambassador would report back to Moscow on a channel that he most likely knows we’re monitoring,” Graham explained to Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The whole story line is suspicious.”
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) noted on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Kushner has agreed to speak with Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials.
“Sounds like he’s more than glad to talk about all of these things and instead of getting wrapped up into a lot of hyperbole, as these things can sometimes do, I think talking with him directly and getting him to answer any and all questions as he said he would do would probably be the prudent course of action,” Corker said to Chuck Todd.
But congressional Democrats are not letting the scandal go away so easy.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in November’s presidential election, including the possibility of collusion with the Trump campaign.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Schiff called for a review of Kushner’s security clearance.
“If these reports are accurate, right after that campaign, after that intervention, to have the president’s son-in-law, a key player within the Trump Organization trying to establish a back channel with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility, you have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?” Schiff said.
The Kushner family has a history of criminal behavior. Jared’s father, Charles Kushner, was convicted in 2005 of witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions, and tax evasion.