This is why presidents want backchannels and how it can go wrong

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tags: Russia, espionage, Trump



Richard A. Moss is an associate research professor at the United States Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies.

The Washington Post reports that presidential son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to set up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin. In itself, this is not necessarily surprising. The use of back channels, such as special emissaries and personal intermediaries, is almost as old as diplomacy itself. Historical agreements have been worked out and crises have been averted through secret channels that bypass established diplomatic institutions or communications. As I argued in December, the Trump administration’s desire to set up a back channel to reduce tensions — or achieve detente — was not illegal, nor was unprecedented. Even still, Jared Kushner may be in trouble depending on the details.

The revelation that Kushner may have requested the use of Russian secure communications is baffling. If true, the request was both unusual and unprecedented. The rationale could be as simple as a desire to keep communications with a rival power compartmentalized in the White House, it could have been a mistake of inexperience, it could have had a nefarious purpose, or it could be something else or a combination of reasons. We will not know until this is investigated, and it appears that the public won’t have to wait decades for declassification.




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