trump kushner
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly (not pictured) defended alleged efforts by presidential adviser Jared Kushner (right) to set up back-channel communications with Moscow. Above: President Trump and Kushner arrive for a meeting with manufacturing CEOs at the White House, Feb. 23, 2017. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Trump administration Sunday hit back at allegations of improper contacts between presidential son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and Russian officials, saying such contacts are normal, as Democrats demanded a full investigation.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, appearing on both NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week,” downplayed the significance of Kushner’s meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“I think any time you can open lines of communication with anyone, whether they’re good friends or not so good friends, is a smart thing to do,” Kelly said on “Meet the Press.”

“Just because you have a backchannel, if indeed that’s what Jared was after, doesn’t mean that he then keeps everything secret. I mean he shares that. But the backchannel as I understand it, and of course every administration has had it all the way forever. Backchannel communications with people are ways to communicate with people, again not in front of the press, as an example, but that information is not necessarily kept secret from the rest of the government.”

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On “This Week,” Kelly called back-channel contacts “normal.”

Kushner reportedly attempted to set up back-channel communications with Moscow, requesting use of equipment at the Russian consulate so that it would be less likely to be monitored by U.S. intelligence. Kislyak relayed the alleged request on a monitored channel.

Asked if he ever had used another government’s communication equipment, Kelly said he never had a need to.

“I mean in my previous life, we wouldn’t do that kind of thing but you know politics being what they are — a better way to put it, not politics but the kind of interaction here in Washington, there’s a lot of ways to communicate with people,” he said.

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Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, however, said he was alarmed at the Kushner reports.

“I will tell you that my dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community – very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“If you put that in context with everything else we knew the Russians were doing to interfere with the election. And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique. So we were concerned.”

He called an FBI investigation into the allegations “appropriate” and “necessary.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he would not accept the allegations at face value.

“I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think it makes no sense that the Russian ambassador would report back to Moscow on a channel that he most likely knows we’re monitoring. “The whole story line is suspicious.”

But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on ABC's “This Week” it makes no sense for Russia to plant such a story.

“It's hard to understand, if these allegations are correct, why this would be some kind of a Russian ruse. Why would they want to undermine the very government that they hoped to have a good relationship with, the incoming Trump administration? So I'm not sure you can see a motive for a ruse here. But, again, all of this is still within the category of allegation. I do think ultimately we're going to want Mr. Kushner to come before our committee.

But Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said if the reports are accurate, “it's obviously very concerning.” Schiff declined to describe any classified evidence seen by the committee but called Russian overtures “very sophisticated,” so nothing can be ruled out.

Sen. Corey Booker, R-N.J., said on “State of the Union” the allegations should be fully investigated but is not ready to demand Kushner be booted from the administration.