The White House declined Tuesday to answer questions on whether President Trump knew about adviser Jared Kushner’s alleged attempts during the presidential transition to establish back-channel communications with Russia.
Asked if Kushner had indeed attempted to negotiate a back channel with Russia, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at the daily press briefing,“That assumes a lot. I am not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss. But what your question assumes is a lot of facts not substantiated by anything but a lot of anonymous sources that are so far leaked out.”
He also pointed out that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said over the weekend that so-called back-channel communications with other countries are generally helpful.
The investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential race and before Trump assumed office now include questions about Kushner’s role, according to several recent news reports.
Spicer on Tuesday also reiterated that an attorney for Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has said his client is willing to discuss the matter with investigators.
He spoke hours after White House Communications Director Michael Dubke confirmed he is leaving the job, fueling speculation about a West Wing shakeup amid Trump’s continued frustration over so-called “fake news.”
“The president gets frustrated when he sees false stories being published,” said Spicer, who also said Trump is “very pleased” with his team, including an “unbelievably qualified Cabinet.”
The press conference started with Spicer reviewing Trump’s just completed nine-day international trip with such superlatives as “incredible” and “historic,” but ended with him again defending the administration’s allegations about fake, or intentionally erroneous, news. Spicer then abruptly exited the briefing room.
On the question of German Chancellor Angela Merkel appearing this weekend to suggest that European Union countries can no longer rely on the United States under Trump, Spicer said the two world leaders have a “fairly unbelievable” relationship.
He also disputed the assumption that Merkel was moving away from Trump, after the president declined last week to join six other nations at the G-7 summit in Brussels in reaffirming their commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which attempts to reduce greenhouse gases linked to climate change.
Spicer read Merkel’s comment Sunday in which she suggested the EU go forward amid “friendships” with the U.S. and other nations. He also said Trump has “great respect’ for Merkel.