“Trump increasingly questions the loyalty of everyone, including his own staff and personal lawyer,” wrote Axios of the Don Jr fiasco this morning. “Every day, it feels like the walls are closing in and it’s unclear who to trust.” Last night the mystery was who had handed Don Jr’s emails to the Times. Today the mystery is why the Times would specify in its latest story that it was Kushner’s legal team who had “discovered” the emails knowing that everyone will now jump to the not-unlikely conclusion that they were the ones who provided them to the paper. It’s not the same as burning a source but it’s close. And it’s probably going to make Kushner’s life inside the White House hell.
When Trump inevitably fires Jared, he should have NBC air it live as a very special episode of “The Apprentice.”
The emails were discovered in recent weeks by Mr. Kushner’s legal team as it reviewed documents, and the team amended his clearance forms to disclose it, according to people briefed on the developments, who like others declined to be identified because of the sensitive political and legal issues involved.
The Times goes on to note that Manafort also disclosed the meeting with the Russian lawyer to federal investigators but says nothing about him mentioning emails. Kushner and Manafort are the only members of the inner circle with a conceivable motive to go public with this stuff: Each of them was a much bigger player in the campaign than Don Jr was, so if the fact that the meeting took place had somehow ended up in the papers, the coverage likely would have focused on one or both of them instead of Junior — probably Kushner most of all since, unlike Manafort, he works in the White House as a top advisor. The solution, presumably, was for Team Jared (or Team Paul) to leak the details of the meeting preemptively, emphasizing that Donald Jr, not Kushner or Manafort, had been the one excited at the prospect of Russian-provided oppo on Hillary Clinton. How Kushner’s going to manage his relationship with the president after this, I can’t imagine.
Under different circumstances, he might be fired for it. But (a) he’s technically part of the family as Ivanka’s better half and (b) he may know too much about potential criminal activity for Trump to risk alienating him while Bob Mueller’s out there digging around. What’s a beleaguered president to do? Why not … fire Reince Priebus instead?
The makeup of Trump’s inner circle is the subject of internal debate, as ever. Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser; Jared Kushner, her husband and another senior adviser; and first lady Melania Trump have been privately pressing the president to shake up his team — most specifically by replacing Reince Priebus as the White House chief of staff, according to two senior White House officials and one ally close to the White House.
The three family members are especially concerned about the steady stream of unauthorized leaks to journalists that have plagued the administration over the nearly six months that President Trump has been in office, from sensitive national security information to embarrassing details about the inner workings of the White House, the officials said.
Imagine Reince getting canned over leaks at the urging of Jared and Ivanka, only for some paper to later confirm that it was Kushner’s lawyers who ratted out Don Jr in the first place.
But wait, the potential departures from the White House don’t end there. If you believe the Times, Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, may also be thinking of quitting because of — ta da — Jared Kushner.
Mr. Kasowitz and his colleagues have been deeply frustrated by the president. And they have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop, according to another person familiar with the legal team. But one person familiar with Mr. Kasowitz’s thinking said his concerns did not relate to Mr. Kushner.
The president’s lawyers view Mr. Kushner as an obstacle and a freelancer more concerned about protecting himself than his father-in-law, the person said. While no ultimatum has been delivered, the lawyers have told colleagues that they cannot keep operating that way, raising the prospect that Mr. Kasowitz may resign.
Interesting that the allegation about Kushner being more concerned with protecting himself than the Trumps would appear in a story alleging that it was Kushner’s lawyers who found the Don Jr emails. As for Kasowitz’s allies whispering about him quitting, I’ll leave it to legal eagles to chime in: How ethical is it for a lawyer to be telling people that he might soon drop a client who’s in a mess and desperately needs competent representation? Either drop him or don’t, but for fark’s sake, don’t leave him hanging by leaking that you may or may not be departing soon. It’s typical of this endless political car accident that even the people brought in from the outside to help straighten things out can’t help driving into walls.
One last detail from the Times piece. Because Don Jr’s spin on all this has been so inept — first insisting that the meeting with the lawyer was about adoptions then admitting it was about Hillary dirt then being forced to publish the emails proving that he thought she was with the Russian government — it’s tempting to assume that he’s been freelancing it. Not so. According to the NYT, it was the president’s own advisors who drafted Junior’s original “adoption” statement and it was the president himself who approved it. Three sources told the Times that Don Jr wanted to come clean and do a full explanation from the beginning, and, er, three other sources claim that Don Jr was adamantly opposed to full disclosure, which demonstrates starkly just how circular this firing squad is right now. Whatever the truth may be as to what Don Jr wanted, why did Team Trump lie in the initial statement about what happened at the meeting knowing that Kushner and Manafort had told the feds about it recently and thus the truth was likely to come out? And why is Team Trump drafting statements for Don Jr anyway? He’s supposed to be a private citizen who’s independent of the administration, right? That’s the whole reason that letting him run the family business is supposedly acceptable: In theory, he’s not interacting with the White House. In reality, the White House is putting out statements in his name. Why would Kasowitz and other Trump family lawyers allow that to happen knowing how it exposes them to conflict-of-interest problems?
In lieu of an exit question, here’s an interesting coincidence. Don Jr claims his father didn’t know about the meeting with the Russian lawyer.
June 7 – 5:16 PM – Don Jr. confirms meeting w/ Russian lawyer
June 7 – 9:13 PM Trump promises press conf the next week with Clinton dirt. pic.twitter.com/qAYEvymsdV
— Yashar Ali (@yashar) July 11, 2017