News & Politics

House Intel Republicans Seriously Cited Kushner Russian Backchannel Attempt as Evidence Against Collusion

The committee's initial report was released Thursday, but had already been widely discredited.

Photo Credit: DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro

On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee Republicans released the conclusions of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign. As was already clear from the public statements, the report is a joke.

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the report concerns its findings about the backchannel President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, tried to set up with Russian officials during the transition period.

"Possible Russian efforts to set up a 'back channel' with Trump associates after the election suggest the absence of collusion during the campaign, since the communication associated with collusion would have rendered such a 'back channel' unnecessary," the report reads.

This wild leap in logic is staggering in its effort to exonerate the Trump team based on very troubling evidence.

Kushner himself has acknowledged that it was his suggestion that the Trump team might establish private communications through the Russian Embassy — supposedly to discuss Syria. This was in connection with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's efforts to communicate with the Russians during the transition — communications he later lied about to the FBI and pleaded guilty to in December.

In fact, we know there were multiple lines of communication between the Trump campaign and the Russians: the Trump tower meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, George Papadopoulos' contacts with Russians and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak's various run-ins with members of the team.

Assuming any of those communications involved illegal or immoral "collusion" — or any kind of quid pro quo — setting up an official but off-the-books channel of communication during the transition would be a logical next step. 

This possibility doesn't prove that any collusion happened but demonstrates how absurd the House Intelligence Committee report's findings are.

Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.