Homeland Security

Homeland's Kelly says no 'big deal' if Kushner tried back-channel network with Russia, as WH fights back

Joseph Weber

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday it's not a "big deal" if White House adviser Jared Kushner indeed tried during the 2016 elections to set up back-channel communications with the Kremlin -- as the White House this weekend fought back against the growing Russia collusion story.

“Any channel of communication back or otherwise is a good thing,” Kelly told “Fox News Sunday.” “It doesn’t bother me.”

The White House was essentially quiet when news broke last week, while President Trump was overseas, that Kushner was part of a federal investigation into Trump's inner circle allegedly colluding with Russia during the elections.

However, at a press conference in Italy on Saturday, the final day of Trump's nine-day trip, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster acknowledged that the United States indeed has back-channel communications with a number of countries that allow officials to “communicate in a discreet manner."

Earlier Sunday, Trump tweeted three times about “fake news” and anonymous sources, amid the growing Russia story that last week also includes a report, based on unnamed sources, that Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka, had two previously undisclosed conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took over the White House.

“Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don't mention names ... it is very possible that those sources don't exsist [sic] but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!," Trump said over two tweets.

Kushner’s lawyer has said his client is willing to talk to federal and congressional investigators about the matter.

Kelly on Sunday also told Fox News that information gleaned off such a channel would have went into the White House as a “data point.”

“I don’t see it as a big deal,” he said. “I don’t see an issue here."

Kelly also on Sunday declined to say whether he will, in fact, ban laptops on all International flights in and out of the United States.

“I might,” said Kelly, acknowledging that terrorists are “obsessed with knocking down a U.S. flight.”