Looks like we spoke too soon. The holiday-weekend Trump bombshell has arrived courtesy of The Washington Post. This time, the paper is reporting that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisors, discussed the possibility of setting up a secure communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.
The scene was set earlier in the week when NBC reported on Thursday that Kushner is now “under FBI scrutiny” before explaining that he’s not an official target in the investigation.
And now, WaPo reports, according to the anonymous US officials, sensitive information 'incriminating Kushner' was intercepted by US intelligence agencies when Kislyak relayed the details of the discussion to his superiors in Moscow.
At first brush, the report appears damning: If accurate, WaPo has unearthed actual evidence of collusion between a senior Trump associated and the Russians, one might think.
But it’s important to keep in mind two crucial facts that WaPo decided to bury further in their "reporting."
First, this alleged discussion occurred during a meeting at Trump Tower in early December, nearly a month after Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton. The investigations being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the House and the Senate are focused on uncovering evidence of collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government during the campaign.
And second, if it weren’t for the implications (that this is evidence of collusion between a close Trump associated and Moscow), this would be a non-story, as WaPo readily admits, 16 paragraphs deep: “It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials. But new administrations are generally cautious in their handling of interactions with Moscow, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of waging an unprecedented campaign to interfere in last year’s presidential race and help elect Trump.”
So, to summarize - after Trump won the election (thus not before the election and not showing any election-tampering collusion), Kushner began discussions with the US representative of another world super-power to set up the back-channel-communications that are standard when any new president is elected.
If that's the best the media has for a long weekend, then perhaps, just perhaps, we have jumped the shark in terms of 'damning' leaked intercepts? Or perhaps the assumption is that the average WaPo reader will not reach the 16th paragraph, merely content with the headline confirmation of their own bias?
In a separate story published Friday evening, Wapo reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015. The development is notable because it's the first time that any Congressional investigators have requested documents from the Trump campaign.