Former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden said the reported plan by chief White House adviser Jared Kushner to arrange secret communications with the Russians during President Donald Trump’s transition was “off the map” and like nothing he has seen in his lifetime.
Hayden wants to chalk up the stunning plan to “naivete” rather than evil intentions — but that’s not reassuring, he said in an interview on CNN.
“Right now, I’m going with naivete, and that’s not particularly comforting for me,” he said. “What manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt would you have to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or an appropriate idea?”
Hayden was commenting on reports, which first appeared in The Washington Post Friday, that Kushner discussed last December establishing a secret communication channel with the Kremlin — using Russian facilities — without any monitoring by the U.S.
Kushner discussed the idea in Trump Tower with Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., who was surprised by the request, the Post reported, because of security risks such an arrangement would pose to both countries.
Kushner emerged last Thursday as a person of interest in the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
Without specifically mentioning the report about Kushner, Trump tweeted Sunday in an apparent response to a number of recent stories about his administration that “leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies.”
Kushner’s reported plan is evidence of an extreme cynicism about “organs of the state,” said Hayden, and a belief that government institutions only serve the self-interests of the president currently in power. The apparent implication of such a Kremlin link was that the Trump team trusted Russian agents more than the outgoing Obama administration or the U.S. intelligence community.
“What degree of suspicion of the existing government, what degree of contempt for the administration they were replacing would be required again to think this was an acceptable course of action?” he asked.
Hayden added: “It says an awful lot about us as a society that we could actually harbor those kinds of feelings that the organs of the state would be used by my predecessor to come after me or ... to disrupt my administration in a way that made it seem legitimate to me to use the secure communications facilities of a foreign power — a foreign power that some in government alleged you were cooperating with to affect the American election.”
It’s evidence, he added, that “we are in a really dark place as a society.”