Man, this NYT piece has enough juicy morsels to satisfy the most Trump-loving nationalist or the most Trump-hating Democrat. Their nexus: Contempt for Prince Jared, who’s suddenly out of favor within the inner circle. And not just because of his Russia follies.
He can’t be fired, of course, as he’s part of the family. The only solution is to exile him and have Ivanka unite the continent by marrying Justin Trudeau.
The most serious point of contention between the president and his son-in-law, two people familiar with the interactions said, was a video clip this month of Mr. Kushner’s sister Nicole Meyer pitching potential investors in Beijing on a Kushner Companies condominium project in Jersey City. At one point, Ms. Meyer — who remains close to Mr. Kushner — dangled the availability of EB-5 visas to the United States as an enticement for Chinese financiers willing to spend $500,000 or more.
For Mr. Trump, Ms. Meyer’s performance violated two major rules: Politically, it undercut his immigration crackdown, and in a personal sense, it smacked of profiteering off Mr. Trump — one of the sins that warrants expulsion from his orbit.
In the following days during routine West Wing meetings, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas that were clearly intended to express his annoyance, two aides said. Mr. Kushner did not respond, at least not in earshot.
“Profiteering off Mr. Trump” is a cardinal sin? Literally everyone who knows Trump has tried to do that. Corey Lewandowski opened up a lobbying shop next to the White House (which he’s since left) premised explicitly on his access to the president, and Trump was so angry about it that he’s reportedly ready to hire Corey as a “crisis manager” any day now. Which, come to think of it, is another sign of Kushner losing sway. It was Jared and Ivanka who leaned on Trump to fire Lewandowski as campaign manager last year. If Corey’s coming back, Trump’s obviously not listening to Kushner as closely as he used to. Next stop: Chief of staff Chris Christie? Don’t laugh — WaPo floated a rumor yesterday that Reince Priebus will soon be sent packing as the next ambassador to Greece.
It’s not just the snafu with Kushner’s family selling visas in China that pissed off Trump and others in the West Wing, per the Times. The Russia headache is part of it, as is Kushner’s piss-poor political instinct in pushing hard to fire Comey in the foolish belief that Democrats would rally around the president for it. Bannonites also dislike him, of course, because of Kushner’s clashes with their champion and his alleged habit of telling White House staffers to choose sides between them, with Trump himself reportedly warning Jared at one point to stop asking him to fire Bannon. On top of all that, though, is annoyance at his exalted status as “first among equals” among Trump’s advisors even though he did nothing in politics before last year and seems not to want to dirty his hands with the actual hard business of governing. Politico:
Kushner has risen so quickly in the White House that his colleagues grumble about “principal confusion” — when a staffer thinks that the reflected spotlight of the boss is actually shining on him. Colleagues have rolled their eyes that Kushner has hired a communications adviser to work on his own portfolio. That aide, Raffel, traveled abroad with him to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Rome…
Internally at the White House, according to multiple sources, there is a feeling of resentment among people about Kushner’s special status as a family member, and a feeling that it’s about time for him to have a turn under the gun.
Per the Times, staffers grumble that Kushner has made clear that he wants nothing to do with the legislative process and is prone to taking off during crises (he was on vacation when the House health-care bill crashed and burned in March) yet still enjoys vast oversight power over foreign policy and “innovation” with little accountability. He has his allies, like Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, and ultimately he’s untouchable because of Ivanka, but there’s always the chance that he’ll tire of the backbiting, media scrutiny, and broken friendships with his old liberal New York circle and decide to quit. A different Times story yesterday claimed Kushner’s told people that he and Ivanka are reviewing whether to stay in D.C. every six months, while Politico describes him as “miserable” over the policy paralysis and internal dysfunction at the White House. Some staffers have reportedly encouraged him to “lay low” while the Russia heat is on, which may or may not be their way of getting him to reconsider the liberating virtues of life as a private citizen.
He’s supposedly vowing privately to stay put and fight on, but he’s an easy target for the press as the Russiagate story rolls on. What does Trump do if Kushner ends up being a daily distraction? It’s unthinkable that he’d alienate Ivanka by firing him but also unthinkable that he’d be happy if Kushner stepped down voluntarily and took Ivanka back to New York with him. Maybe he’ll end up with the sort of role that Sean Spicer seems headed for — still technically on staff, if only to keep him quiet about what he knows, but reduced to a largely ceremonial position.
Here’s poor John Kelly forced to play dumb about whether it’s okay for an American to try to talk to Moscow through Russia’s own secure communications apparatus.