Covering the Kushner-Russia story

The New York Times and the Washington Post have outdone themselves uncovering the rot beneath every stone of the Trump administration, but it doesn’t mean the reporting hasn’t had flaws. Having each published stories about Trump son in law Jared Kushner’s secret communications with the Kremlin, the news organizations offered subtle shades:

n the New York Times’ innocuous version of events “the idea was to have Mr. Flynn speak directly with a senior military official in Moscow to discuss Syria and other security issues.” For the president-elect’s incoming National Security Advisor to conduct direct talks about ongoing military operations with a foreign government outside the auspices of the American government would be highly unorthodox but not necessarily indicative of anything more nefarious than Flynn’s deep distrust for an Obama administration national security team that, after all, fired him.

This explanation is, however, somewhat difficult to square with the key claim of the Washington Post’s report which is that Kushner not only asked Kislyak to set up a line of communication with Moscow, but specifically suggested “using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring” by the American government.

The idea of discussions between Russia and the incoming administration seems innocent enough on its own terms, but the apparent effort to set up a line of communications that would be concealed from the American government suggests something more sinister.

To watch the coverage last night and this morning is to note that the “innocuous” version has taken hold, or, more accurately, a mishmash of both stories

Why, as Yglesias, remarks, the administration would require access to Russia’s diplomatic communication channels to open secret talks with Syria is a question no one’s answered. As for Russia, “the prospect that he may have been jockeying for Chinese or Russian financiers to bail out him and his family from a potentially disastrous investment at 666 Fifth Avenue” looks like the straightest line, and it’s surprised me that few pundits have made this obvious point.

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