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Trump defends Kushner, administration against what he calls ‘fake news’

The US President claimed the leaks coming out of the White House are “fabricated lies” and said he had “total confidence” in Jared Kushner.

world Updated: May 29, 2017 22:33 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump,Jared Kushner,Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak
File Photo of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner at the White House in Washington.(Reuters)

Returning home from a nine-day overseas trip, US President Donald Trump has plunged headlong into the ongoing Russia probe controversy, determined to defend his administration and his son-in-law Jared Kushner from its growing reach.

Trump started by lashing out against the coverage of the probe, tweeting, “It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.”

In another tweet, he posted: “Whenever you see the words ‘sources say’ in the fake news media, and they don’t mention names it is very possible that those sources don’t exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”

By the end of the day, he had turned to the emerging focus of the controversy — his son-in-law. Trump said in a statement to The New York Times: “Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programmes that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person.”

Kushner has become a key figure in the ongoing controversy, with reports stating he asked Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to set up a back-channel communication system between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, run from Russia’s diplomatic facilities in the United States in order to circumvent US monitoring.

While some attributed the request to naiveté of someone not familiar with how the government works, others have pointed to more dire implications, going so far as to suggest it could be treasonous if true. Some Democrats have called for cancelling Kushner’s security clearance which he enjoys as a senior adviser to the president.

While Trump had defended Kushner, who has been his most trusted adviser, he is also reported to have expressed dissatisfaction with him and his family, especially over Kushner’s sister seeking investors at a roadshow in Beijing for a New Jersey housing project using the family name.

But Trump is unlikely to fire him, even as he considers a personnel shake-up that has long been the subject of much speculation. Knives are said to be out for Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, and Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary.

The president is also reported to be putting together a team of legal advisers to help him navigate the Russia probe that is the subject of multiple investigations — one each by two chambers of US congress, one by the FBI (now taken over by special counsel Robert Muller) and one by the Pentagon (specifically into Russia contacts of Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn).

Trump is believed to be considering bringing back Corey Lewandowski, his hard-charging former campaign manager who had been fired for falling foul of the Trump children and Kushner. Trump had continued to consult him though, and there are reports he might return with some others.

First Published: May 29, 2017 22:15 IST