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Franken: Kushner backchannel reports suspicious
01:46 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

The Democrat and former "Saturday Night Live" comedian has just released his new book

"This does not feel like a group of people that has nothing to hide," he says of Trump's team

Washington CNN  — 

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said he thinks it is “very suspicious” that Jared Kushner reportedly proposed setting up a secret communication channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin.

“Normally a back channel isn’t something where you go to the other country’s communication systems so your own intelligence can’t hear it,” Franken told Anderson Cooper on “AC360” on Tuesday. “That’s what it sounds like Kushner thought he was doing. It’s also very suspicious that he did not report this meeting. This is the kind of meeting you’d remember.”

The Democratic lawmaker’s comments come several days after news broke that Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, told higher-ups that Kushner, a trusted aide to President Donald Trump and husband to Ivanka Trump, proposed the back channel to him at a meeting at Trump Tower in December.

A source told CNN the channel was meant to discuss military operations in Syria and other matters.

“This is very suspicious,” Franken said again. “And we know, at that time that Kushner and Flynn met with Kislyak, Trump was denying that the Russians had interfered in the campaign and was kind of at war with our intelligence services.”

When asked if the Trump administration has something to hide, he said: “My gut tells me they do, because they aren’t acting like people that don’t have anything to hide. We will see.”

The lawmaker’s new book, “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate,” debuted Tuesday. The book discusses his time in the Senate, with a focus on how the former comedian and one-time “Saturday Night Live” writer and performer has tried to keep his jokes to himself.

In his interview with CNN, Franken said he thinks one of Trump’s personal attorneys, Michael Cohen, should cooperate with Congress. Cohen told CNN on Tuesday that he declined an invitation to “provide information and testimony” to the House and Senate Intelligence committees because he considered it a “total fishing expedition.”

“I think that you’re supposed to go in and talk to (Congress),” Franken, a Senate Judiciary Committee member, said of Cohen. “I think that’s what he should be doing. As I say, this does not feel like a group of people that has nothing to hide.”

Franken said he’s confident that former FBI Director Robert Mueller is “the right guy” to take over the investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election.

“We have a special prosecutor (Mueller), a very good one,” Franken said. “We have the intelligence committee in both House and Senate doing an investigation. So I believe we’ll get to the bottom of this and find out what happened.”