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Fast Forward

North Korea Wanted Secret Backchannel With Jared Kushner

One of the first steps the North Korean regime took to reach out to the White House was sending a message to presidential adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner, The New York Times reported Sunday.

A financier with business interests in North Korea named Gabriel Schulze approached the White House last summer saying that North Korean leaders wanted to create a backchannel line of communication through Kushner to explore a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.

“For some in North Korea, which has been ruled since its founding by a family dynasty, Mr. Kushner appeared to be a promising contact,” the Times wrote. “As a member of the president’s family, officials in Pyongyang judged, Mr. Kushner would have the ear of his father-in-law and be immune from the personnel changes that had convulsed the early months of the administration.”

Kushner, who did not have a security clearance at the time, did not play a direct role in talks, but passed along the message to then-CIA director Mike Pompeo and asked the agency to take the lead on North Korea outreach. Pompeo eventually made a secret trip to North Korea in April, setting up the Trump-Kim summit in June.

Schulze was among a dozen private citizens who approached the government seeking to help create a backchannel, the Times reported. Such practices have been used by past administrations when trying to communicate hostile and isolationist governments, such as during the Obama White House’s outreach to Iran.

This was not the first time Kushner was involved in secret diplomatic dealings.

During his meetings with Russian officials amidst the presidential transition, Kushner sought to set up a secure communications line to Moscow inside the Russian embassy.

And Kushner also created a personal connection with China’s ambassador to the U.S. earlier this year in order to help smooth tensions between the two countries.

Contact Aiden Pink at pink@forward.com or on Twitter, @aidenpink

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