Homeland Security Secretary defends plan for Russia back channel


US President Donald Trump has dismissed reports of leaks claiming his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner tried to set up secret communications with Moscow as "fake news".

Trump returned to Washington late Saturday after a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, his first trip overseas as president.

In a statement provided to The New York Times on Sunday, the president said "Jared is doing a great job for the country".

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a frequent Trump critic, seemed to back him yesterday on CNN's "State of the Union", saying of the Kushner report, "I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it".

Trump added in the statement that Kushner was "respected by virtually everyone", and was busy working to help save the country "billions of dollars".

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 US presidential election.

Franken's comments come after the Washington Post reported Friday that Kushner sought in December to establish a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and Moscow.

President Donald Trump's communications director is leaving the job, the White House said on Tuesday, as the president considers wider staff changes to try to contain political damage from probes into Russian Federation and his presidential campaign.

"If not, then there's no way he can maintain that kind of a clearance", Schiff said.

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Andrew Hemingway, who co-chaired Trump's campaign in New Hampshire, said Trump won't have trouble countering anonymously sourced reports.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee also said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin poses a bigger threat to national security than ISIS.

"Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings".

During the Monica Lewinsky investigation, the Clinton White House brought on a dedicated group of lawyers and a created a separate media operation to handle investigation-related inquiries so they didn't completely subsume the president's agenda.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner arrives to join President Donald Trump and the rest of the USA delegation to meet with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Royal Court Riyadh on May 20. Michael Flynn, since fired as the president's national security advisor for his Russian associations, was also at the meeting. The president has denied any collusion, repeatedly denouncing the probes by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several congressional panels as an effort by Democrats to explain Hillary Clinton's upset defeat in the White House race.

Kushner has drawn increased scrutiny as reports have emerged about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and a Russian banking representative. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.

The bad press has rapidly spread since the firing of FBI director James Comey, which in short order led to the appointment of a special counsel to spearhead the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and allegations of collusion with the Trump campaign.

Kushner was a trusted Trump adviser past year, overseeing the campaign's digital strategy.