‘Jared has faded’: Inside the 28 days of tumult that left Kushner badly diminished

This official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe private interactions, said the uncertainty surrounding special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe has cast a cloud over Kushner in particular.

“Some of his administration colleagues are just more reluctant to have conversations with him or in his company because they’re not sure if he’s a witness or a target of the Mueller investigation,” the official said.

The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, a friend of Trump’s and a mentor to Kushner, wrote Thursday that Kushner had become a political target for the president’s adversaries. Describing Mueller’s interest in Kushner’s business dealings and foreign contacts, the editorial continued: “Only he and his lawyers know if there are other vulnerabilities. If there are, he and President Trump would both [be] better off if Mr. Kushner were out of the White House before they become public.”

Trump and his family were frustrated by how Kelly handled the rollout of clearance changes and felt Kushner was unfairly exposed, according to people who have spoken with them. The president’s adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, were especially angry and felt that by not protecting Kushner, Kelly had been disloyal to the president himself, these people said. Kelly, for his part, has steadfastly denied any effort to target Kushner and praised him last month for his “valuable contributions.”

The Washington Post reported earlier this week that officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways to manipulate Kushner through his myriad financial interests – a factor in his inability to obtain a security clearance. On a separate issue, the New York Times reported that Apollo, a private equity firm, and Citigroup loaned more than $500 million combined to the Kushner family real estate business, after executives of the firms attended meetings with Kushner at the White House.

William M. Daley, a former White House chief of staff and Department of Commerce secretary under Democratic presidents, said, “A family member with no experience at anything other than real estate, no real profile other than a family-run business with a shady past, given incredibly complicated tasks, was a joke.

“People elect a president knowing so much about them, good or bad, but no one knows Jared Kushner in the game he is playing,” Daley continued. “The fact that he made so many blunders, starting with the back-channel talks with Russians, should have told one how in over his head he was.”

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Kushner continues to help manage the Middle East peace process and the administration’s relationship with Mexico. He also convenes weekly meetings on restructuring the prison system, telling colleagues it is his main domestic focus even though the president has given it scant attention.

Early on, Kushner was a conduit to the business community, regularly checking in with corporate leaders and convening them for White House meetings. But the president’s business councils disbanded last summer over his divisive remarks following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and in the months since, Kushner has had less official contact with business executives.

“Jared has faded from the scene,” said one executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from the White House. “People haven’t heard much from him in months.”

Amid the chaos, Kushner has attempted to maintain a sense of normalcy. On Tuesday, he and Ivanka dined at the BLT Prime restaurant in the Trump International Hotel down the street from the White House, along with Eric Trump and his wife and the president’s youngest daughter, Tiffany.

On Wednesday, Kushner attended the morning senior staff meeting where, at Kelly’s prompting, he spoke about the recent announcement that Brad Parscale, a close friend of his who worked on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, would be running the 2020 reelection.

Explaining why Parscale was chosen, Kushner spoke of his digital savvy, and also stressed that Parscale has the full support of the president and his family. It is unusual for government officials to so openly discuss campaign politics in a White House staff meeting.

Parscale’s appointment – first teased out by the Drudge Report, whose founder, Matt Drudge, communicates regularly with Kushner – came as a surprise to some West Wing officials and was seen as an attempted consolidation of power by Kushner at an especially precarious time. Some Kushner critics said the announcement was premature, arguing that the president’s political team should be squarely focused on the midterm elections this November before staffing up for a reelection more than two years from now.

By this week, that once powerful foursome – Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Hicks and Porter – was fractured and in varying states of disarray. Porter left the administration last month and is no longer dating Hicks, the White House communications director. Hicks, meanwhile, abruptly announced Wednesday that she is giving up her post after six years of working for the Trump family in one capacity or another.

In times of duress, Kushner has leaned on Josh Raffel, a deputy White House communications director, to help cope with unflattering coverage. But with crises mounting, Kushner will now need to look elsewhere.

Raffel, too, announced this week that he is leaving.

The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, Shane Harris and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-jared-kushner-diminished-20180302-story.html

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