The White House refused to confirm reports senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner asked Russian officials to set up an off-the-record communications channel Tuesday.
Press secretary Sean Spicer was asked about the story at the start of the White House press briefing and said detailed questions about the reports — which cited anonymous sources — assume the allegations are true.
"I think that assumes a lot," Spicer said. "I would just say Mr. Kushner's attorney has said Mr. Kushner volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings."
Spicer was then asked whether President Donald Trump discussed setting up a backchannel with Kushner, who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka.
"I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss," he said. "What your question assumes is a lot of facts that are not substantiated by anything but anonymous sources that are so far being leaked out."
Spicer referenced comments by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said having a backchannel with other countries is not necessarily inappropriate.
"Secretary Kelly and Gen. McMaster both discussed that in general terms, backchannels are an appropriate part of diplomacy," Spicer said.
Later in the briefing, Spicer was again asked about the topic and had this to say: "Again, I think both of those individuals [Kelly and McMaster], who are steeped in national security and foreign policy, have said that can be an effective tool, generally speaking, in diplomacy."
The Washington Post reported last week Kushner asked Russian officials if they wanted to set up a secret communications channel between the two countries. The alleged request occurred in December, before Trump took office.
Subsequent reports have said the Russians asked Kushner to set up a backchannel.
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