DHS Secretary Kelly: Kushner Back Channel With Russia Is "Normal And Acceptable," "Not A Bad Thing"

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DHS Secretary John Kelly says allegations in the Washington Post that Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner was having inappropriate conversations with the Russians

About former NSA director Mike Hayden's criticism of Kushner speaking to the Russians, Kelly said: "Any information flow inot the government, I won't criticize that. I don't think it is a bad thing."

"Any line of communication to Russia is a good thing," the Homeland Security Secretary said. (Several times over the past 50 years, communication between Russia and the U.S. prevented the destruction of the world in nuclear fire.) "You just have to assume, with the Russians, it is constructed in a way that they are trying to get you to do certain things."

Transcript:

MARTHA RADDATZ, HOST: We're back now with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly in his first THIS WEEK interview since joining the Trump administration.

Good morning, Secretary Kelly.

JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Good morning, Martha. How are you?

RADDATZ: Good to see you. I want to get to this breaking story. I know you don't want to talk about the investigation, but do you think backchanneling is normal and acceptable?

KELLY: It's both normal, in my opinion, and acceptable. Any way that you can communicate with people, particularly organizations that are maybe not particularly friendly to us is a good thing.

And, again, it comes back to -- whatever the communication is, it comes back into the government and shared across the government. So it's not a bad thing to have multiple communication lines to any government.

RADDATZ: Using their equipment in their diplomatic facilities?

KELLY: Well, again, don't know all -- I don't know if all of that is true. I would just say that any line of communication to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing. And, again, it comes back into…

RADDATZ: Even using their equipment? I know you don't know if whether that's true or not. But…

KELLY: I would say any -- I mean, using their equipment, you know, that would cause you to be -- that communication would be considered to be, you know, kind of somewhat compromised. But the point is that any line of communication to a country like Russia is a good thing.

RADDATZ: Let me say, though, Kushner was not yet in government. Didn't have a security clearance. And was working potentially at cross-purposes from people who were still in office.

KELLY: Yes, I don't know that to be the case.

RADDATZ: And the Russians had just meddled in our election.

KELLY: Yes, I don't know that to be the case but the point is during the transition process, to open channels of communication with any country, backchannel, up-front is a good thing.

RADDATZ: Even ones that meddled in our election.

KELLY: I would just say any line of communication -- I mean, you consider that as you interact with them, but any line of communication is a good thing.

RADDATZ: Why would somebody like Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA, and I know he has been a critic of President Trump, but he knows a lot about these things, why would he say, as we said before, "what manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt would you have had to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or appropriate behavior?"

Why are you so at odds with someone like that?

KELLY: Yes, you know, and Mike is a great guy, but I just say, any information flow into the government and then considered by the government, I won't criticize that. I don't think it's a bad thing.

You consider it in terms of whether it's reliable, but all of these lines of communication are, you know, a positive thing in my opinion. You just have to assume, like in this case with the Russians, that it's constructed in a way that they're trying to get you to do certain things.

But at the end of the day it's not a bad thing to have lines of communication across the spectrum.

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