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Spicer refuses to confirm or comment on Kushner "back channel" story, after Trump retweets it

White House plays defense
White House plays defense 07:47

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday refused to confirm or comment on reports that President Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, discussed setting up a secret communication channel with the Kremlin. 

However, just hours earlier, Mr. Trump retweeted a Fox News article describing how Kushner and Russian diplomats discussed setting up a back channel.

"I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss," Spicer said, asked when Mr. Trump became aware of the conversation between Kushner and the Russian officials. 

Spicer, in his first White House briefing since the president returned from his foreign trip, refused to comment on something that is "not a confirmed action," despite Mr. Trump's retweet of the Fox article, which was based on an anonymous source. 

Jared Kushner's influence on Trump 02:36

"So again, I'm not going to get into confirming stuff, there's an ongoing investigation," Spicer continued, referring the media to recent comments from National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly describing back-channel communications in general as normal and unconcerning. He also read a comment Kushner's lawyer previously released. 

Spicer harped on the "perpetuation of false narratives" and the "use of unnamed sources" in recent reporting on the White House, although the president himself retweeted an article with an unnamed source and the White House and the president's first foreign trip often attributed briefings and statements to anonymous White House officials. 

Spicer started the first White House briefing in two weeks by taking more than five minutes to recap the president's trip, taking only a handful of questions from reporters before abruptly ending the briefing. 

Spicer also confirmed that Mr. Trump is interviewing two candidates for FBI director Tuesday -- John Pistole, a former deputy FBI director, and Christopher Wray, a former assistant attorney general.

Spicer's response to the Kushner story highlights how difficult it is for White House aides, scrambling to explain the president's tweets and comments that often run contrary to their own statements, to create a unified public message. 

Recent clashes in communications -- such as when White House aides told the media that Mr. Trump fired FBI Director James Comey after a recommendation from his attorney general and deputy attorney general, but the president himself said he had planned to fire Comey "regardless" of any recommendation -- have dogged the White House. 

To address the mixed messaging, the White House is considering a number of restructuring options, including the formation of an outside group to handle all Russia-related inquiries. In the first major public shake-up of the White House communications staff, CBS News confirmed Tuesday morning that White House Communications Director Mike Dubke is resigning

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