Ex-ambassador: Russia is a 'dark cloud' for Trump's administration

Amb. Burns: Trump administration 'under siege'
Amb. Burns: Trump administration 'under siege'


    Amb. Burns: Trump administration 'under siege'


Amb. Burns: Trump administration 'under siege' 02:20

Story highlights

  • Russia has been an 'albatross' around the administration's neck, he says
  • Using secret channels with Russia 'doesn't make sense,' he says

(CNN)A former US ambassador to NATO who has served in both Bush administrations and under President Clinton issued a strong rebuke Friday night of President Trump's relationship with Russia.

Ambassador Nicholas Burns' criticism came after a Washington Post report that Russia's ambassador told Moscow that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, sought to set up a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin.
In an appearance on CNN's "OutFront," Burns told Pamela Brown that "Russia has been the albatross around the neck of this administration." He said the administration has made the wrong decisions on Russia and failed to contain Russian power.
    He warned that "Russia is a dark cloud hanging over this administration" and urged the Trump White House to cooperate with the Russia investigations because "they have to understand this administration is under siege, and will be, in terms of public opinion, and in terms of the law, until all these questions are answered."
    Burns continued, "If our intelligence community and the FBI had told the American people, as they did in January, in an unclassified letter to the American people that Russia interfered (in our election), any normal president would have wanted to defend this country, investigate it fully."
    He added, "I never understood why candidate Trump and I still don't understand why President Trump has given Russia a pass. ... He has been the weakest President we have had since well before the second World War on the issue of Russia."
    Responding to The Washington Post report, Burns cautioned that Kushner deserves a chance to respond because "they are allegations but they're not proven facts," and "we don't indict in the court of public opinion before all the facts are known."
    But Burns added that it does not make sense why members of the Trump transition team would not communicate "transparently and openly" with foreign officials.
    "I just don't understand why the incoming Trump team felt the need for meetings and secret meetings in the Seychelles, and secret channels. This is not complicated, he said.
    "You just work with the existing administration to create the channel through our normal -- our ambassadors and our embassies. And it doesn't make sense to me why, if this is true, and it may not be true, why the Trump team would have wanted to use Russian communications. That doesn't make sense at all."