Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, reportedly discussed the possibility of a secret communications channel with the Kremlin. Intelligence expert Malcolm Nance minced no words in his assessment: If the account is true, Kushner's actions are "indicative of espionage ... in league with a hostile foreign government." Others agree.
The recent reporting that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, is a person of interest in the FBI's investigation of the Trump team's ties to and possible collusion with Russia was a new bombshell related to this administration.
And only days later, it was compounded by yet another. The Washington Post reports that Kushner and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring."
Intercepts of Russian communications show that Kislyak told his superiors it was Kushner himself who broached the idea, one that Kislyak was taken aback by, due to the inherent security risks.
The Post notes that, to some current and former U.S. intelligence officials, the proposal was confounding. In the words of one official, it "seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy."
But Malcolm Nance, an intelligence expert and former U.S. Navy senior chief petty officer in naval cryptology, had a different word for Kushner's alleged proposal during an appearance on Chris Hayes' All In: espionage.
I'd like to put this into a better perspective for the audience, because I understand that, you know, everyone wants to be a little cautious about this. And we should be cautious about it — it needs to have the amount of respect that's due, due to this breaking news.
But had any individual, other than these individuals who worked immediately for President Trump, performed these actions at any time in the SF-86 security clearance process, they would have immediately had their clearances pulled. They would have had their jobs terminated. Some of these contacts are so suspicious that they would have warranted their own counterintelligence investigation. This nation is in a counterintelligence investigation. They are in a spy hunt over at the FBI, and now we have this story, should it prove true, of an American citizen who is the senior adviser to the president of the United States, attempting to establish what we call in the intelligence community "covert communications" with a hostile nation's potential intelligence agency or senior leadership.
That brings you — that crosses the line to the Espionage Act of 1917. This cannot be explained. Put aside the other 18 contacts with Moscow — this one incident requires Jared Kushner and all of his immediate staff to have their clearances pulled right now, and to have the FBI descend on there and to determine whether this is hostile intelligence in the White House, one step from the president.
As others in intelligence positions have noted, at any other time and with any other person — someone not within Trump's inner circle — allegations such as these would bring swift and sure punishment, including a likely trial for espionage.
Nance expanded on this widely accepted notion, declaring that "there is no FBI counterintelligence officer in the world right now that does not believe" that Kushner's action would be "indicative of espionage activity" if these latest reports prove true.
HAYES: You also said that you thought — under the Espionage Act. What did you mean by that, Malcolm?
NANCE: Right now, let's just take it from the perspective of every intelligence watch officer in the world who is watching this program right now —
HAYES: And we have millions of them.
NANCE: — and that's millions. There's thousands of people who are out there, who are on duty right now watching this — who have top secret SCI, Special Access Program clearance — knowing that in one instance even a fraction of this would lose their clearances, will have to ask themselves the question that they would ask in any counterintelligence environment, and that is simply this: Why? What is the motivational device that Jared Kushner, should this story be true — because we don't know if it's entirely true. We don't even know what the source of this was. The Russians themselves could have leaked this story in order to create chaos.
But why would he want to hide, covert his communications from the U.S. government, believing that he would want to be able to use a facility, obviously that would have more secure communications to create a back channel that U.S. cryptologic collection couldn't get? That right there alone is covert communications. That is indicative of espionage activity of an American citizen that is working in league with a hostile government. And right now there is no FBI counterintelligence officer in the world right now that does not believe that, if this story is true.
With the near-daily additions to the towering scandal surrounding Trump, his campaign and administration, and Russia, we are now at a point where the qualifications that allegations and reports are not necessarily proven facts seem almost quaint.
Giving this White House even an iota of the benefit of the doubt requires the utmost suspension of disbelief.
Between Trump's potential obstruction of justice regarding the firing of FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's lies about his contacts with Russia, Vice President Mike Pence's own litany of lies regarding Flynn and Russia, Attorney General Jeff Sessions' perjury regarding his own contacts with Russian agents, and these latest reports about Kushner, this band of miscreants has proven time and again that they deserve not an ounce of the public's trust.
What they do deserve — and what is owed to the American people, whose security and democracy has been so recklessly put at risk — is a thorough independent investigation into every aspect and every actor in these burgeoning scandals.