White House is 'not going to comment on Jared’ Kushner

White House is 'not going to comment on Jared’ Kushner
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White House officials kept mum on Saturday about the controversy swirling around President TrumpDonald John TrumpDACA recipient claims Trump is holding ‘immigrant youth hostage’ amid quest for wall Lady Gaga blasts Pence as ‘worst representation of what it means to be Christian’ We have a long history of disrespecting Native Americans and denying their humanity MORE's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Trump expected to pitch immigration deal to end funding stalemate The Memo: Concern over shutdown grows in Trump World MORE.

As Trump and his entourage prepared to return to the U.S. from Italy on Saturday, McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary CohnGary David CohnOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Gary Cohn criticizes the shutdown: 'Completely wrong' Ocasio-Cortez rips presence of lobbyists at orientation event MORE fielded questions at a news briefing about reports that Kushner discussed establishing a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin. 

In spite of the questions, McMaster and Cohn flatly refused to discuss the matter, and White House officials demanded that the news briefing be conducted off-camera.

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"We're not going to comment on Jared," Cohn said. "We're just not going to comment."

However, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said he "would not be concerned" about a U.S. official creating a backchannel communications system with Russia.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Kushner sought to establish a backchannel line of communication between the Trump transition team and Moscow in December, during a meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That channel was never set up.

But McMaster cast the backchannel communications as entirely normal, and said that it was not anything to be concerned about.

"We have backchannel communications with a number of countries," he told reporters. "So, generally speaking, about backchannel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner." 

The FBI is looking at meetings that Kushner fielded with Kislyak and Russian banking executive Sergey Gorkov in December as part of the law enforcement investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, also attended Kushner's meeting with Kislyak last year. Flynn was forced to resign in February amid revelations that he had misled Vice President Pence about the nature of conversations he had with Kislyak in the month before Trump took office.

Flynn, as well as former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, have emerged as central figures in the FBI's ongoing Russia probe.