The answer he clearly wants to give is yes, obviously, but it’s equally obvious why he can’t. And so instead we’re treated to one of the most awkward exchanges of the year.
I watched that last night and wondered why Kushner agreed to this interview. He rarely gives on-camera interviews, after all; offhand I can think of exactly one that I’ve seen, when he showed up on Hannity’s show to sell the criminal-justice reform bill. The reporter questioning him, Jonathan Swan of Axios, isn’t known as a creampuff either. He ended up grilling Kushner on various subjects during their sitdown — the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, his bromance with the ruthless crown prince of Saudi Arabia, his difficulties obtaining a security clearance, and the famous Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer in 2016.
Why would Kushner give Swan an opportunity to make him squirm at length for Axios’s HBO show?
Two theories. One: Swan is sitting on something damaging about Kushner and Kushner knows it, and the price of getting him not to publish it was to sit for this conversation. Tabloids operate that way too, of course. Often they’ll agree to suppress some dirt they’ve uncovered about a celebrity in exchange for that celebrity’s cooperation on other stories. Swan’s not a tabloid reporter, though, and if he had something juicy enough on Jared that Kushner would fear its publication, one suspects that scoop would be worth more to him than this interview.
Two: Swan breaks big scoops about the White House and Congress regularly, proof that he has sources in high places in Washington. What if Jared is one of his sources? And what if Jared sat for this interview expecting that Swan would handle him with kid gloves, not wanting to jeopardize his relationship with the president’s top advisor? And what if Swan, sensing his chance for an interview that would help make his national reputation as a tough TV interviewer, calculated that Kushner was less useful to him as a source going forward than as the unwitting target of a hardball interview and surprised him by putting him through the wringer?
I’m leaning much more towards theory two than theory one. But there has to be some explanation. It’s unthinkable that the camera-shy Jared would knowingly sit for a no-holds-barred conversation with a well-known reporter.
Here’s the Q&A about the Trump Tower meeting with the Russia. Kushner does well here until the end, when he’s asked if he’d alert the FBI the next time a foreign power reaches out to huddle with him about the Democratic nominee — one of the few softballs tossed by Swan in their chat — and he says he … doesn’t know.