The Latest: Homeland security chief defends Kushner before Congress

Jared Kushner, son-in-law of President-elect Donald Trump, arrives for a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Monday, Jan. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Latest on the Trump administration and the Russia investigation (all times local):

11:15 a.m.

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly is defending top White House adviser Jared Kushner amid reports that Kushner attempted to establish a “back-channel” communication between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential transition team. Under Democratic questioning, Kelly said “we have to make the assumption – and I will – that Jared Kushner is a great American.”

He said back-channel talks have been common in U.S. diplomacy. Still, Kelly noted the matter is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Kelly told Montana Sen. Jon Tester that “It’s part of the Bob Mueller investigation,” and the subject of congressional probes. Tester said he believes the conduct of the president’s son-in-law is “unacceptable” and asked Kelly “to find out what the hell is going on.”

___ 7:00 a.m.

The Kremlin has denied claims from a U.S. government intelligence report that Russian hackers attacked at least one U.S. voting software supplier before last year’s presidential election. The classified National Security Agency report, which was published online on Monday by The Intercept, said Russian military intelligence agency GRU attacked the software company and sent spear-phishing emails to local election officials around October and November.

The report did not say whether the hacking had any effect on election results. Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, denied the allegations Tuesday, saying that the Kremlin did not see “any evidence to prove this information is true.” He said Moscow categorically denies “the possibility” of the Russian government being behind it.

___

3:15 a.m.

Russian hackers attacked at least one U.S. voting software supplier days before last year’s presidential election, according to a government intelligence report leaked Monday that suggests election-related hacking penetrated further into U.S. voting systems than previously known.. The classified National Security Agency report, which was published online by The Intercept, does not say whether the hacking had any effect on election results.

But it says Russian military intelligence attacked a U.S. voting software company and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials at the end of October or beginning of November. U.S. intelligence agencies declined to comment. However, the Justice Department announced Monday it had charged a government contractor in Georgia with leaking a classified report containing “Top Secret level” information to an online news organization. The report the contractor allegedly leaked is dated May 5, the same date as the document The Intercept posted online.

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