Former White House strategist Steve Bannon was “not happy” when the media reported in 2017 that Jared Kushner had tried to establish a secret “back channel” for communication with the Kremlin during Donald Trump’s transition into the White House, according to a new trove of documents obtained by BuzzFeed.
“Neither Kushner nor [Michael] Flynn” — then the national security adviser — “mentioned the meeting,” apparently referring to their sit-down with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss the plan, according to a summary of an interview with Bannon by investigators working with former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Bannon, however, did not talk to Flynn nor Kushner about the issue, according to the summary. They were “not exactly speaking at the time,” the summary noted, apparently referring to both men.
The information is buried in hundreds of pages of interview summaries obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed reporter Jason Leopold.
Despite his concerns about the “back channel,” Bannon told investigators he didn’t think the “stuff” regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin and his links to the White House were “a big deal,” according to the summary.
Russia’s “reach outs” after the election were not “any different than any other country’s,” Bannon told investigators.
“For example, the Japanese prime minister wanted to fly over and have a cup of coffee,” he said, BuzzFeed reported.
Bannon also noted that the White House transition was chaotic because few people had expected Trump to win.
“People in the campaign thought it was not necessary to have a strong transition team going into the election, in part because they were so far down in the polls,” Bannon explained in Miller’s office in early 2018, according to another summary. “Trump was also superstitious about things like that. Bill Hagerty, the director of the transition, had scheduled a trip to the Bahamas for after the election, assuming they would not win.”
Kushner’s name came up in Bannon’s interview — but no details were released in his own interview. Nearly every single word was redacted in the five-page summary of Kushner’s November 2017 interview with FBI agents and federal prosecutors, BuzzFeed noted.