Count me as skeptical that Kushner is going anywhere
But, that doesn't mean the current Kushner conundrum won't have consequences
President Donald Trump isn’t a man who gets too bogged down in rules. Especially when it comes to how he lives his life or runs his White House.
But, he does have a few rules. And these two might be the most important:
1. Family first. Always.
2. Staff getting bad press for the boss isn’t staff for long.
Which brings us to Jared Kushner, who is both a senior adviser to Trump and the President’s son-in-law.
Kushner, whose portfolio is so broad that he’s been described as the “Secretary of Everything,” was widely regarded as the one untouchable staffer in the White House due to rule No. 1. Kushner was family – he’s married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka – before he was ever a member of the Trump staff.
Then last week happened. Kushner, according to The Washington Post, sought a secret backchannel with the Russians in a December meeting with ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The Post reported that the FBI, which is in the midst of an ongoing investigation into Russia meddling into the 2016 election and the possibility of collusion with some elements of the Trump campaign found that meeting to be of “investigative interest.”
While that was the biggest negative story about Kushner that popped into the national media at the end of last week, it wasn’t the only one. Reuters reported that Kushner had at least three previously unreported contacts with Kislyak both during and after the 2016 campaign. Then, on Monday night, The New York Times reported that federal investigators are trying to figure out why Kushner met with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov shortly after the meeting with Kislyak reported by the Post.
The details are complicated as to what Kushner knew and what he was trying to do. (Nota bene: The FBI has never said Kushner is a target of their investigation and Kushner has volunteered to testify in front of congressional committees looking into Russia and the 2016 election.) The point is that a weekend Donald Trump was hoping would be dominated by positive chatter about his nine-day, five-country foreign trip was instead all about Kushner.
Trump, publicly, remains entirely supportive of his son-in-law. “Jared is doing a great job for the country,” he told the Times Sunday night. “I have total confidence in him.” And, Kushner – and Ivanka – are “laying low,” certain that he will survive this episode.
A source familiar with Kushner’s White House duties told CNN’s Jim Acosta Tuesday that the senior adviser isn’t giving up any part of his vast portfolio, including Middle East peace and streamlining government.
Kushner “has a strong team around him working on every part of his portfolio,” the source said.
But privately, the picture is less clear.
This, on Kushner, comes from Politico:
“Some allies and aides say Jared Kushner, a top adviser who is under scrutiny for his business ties and communications with Russian officials, is also on shaky ground, even though Trump is unlikely to let his own son-in-law go.”
Then there is the fact that Trump seems increasingly frustrated by how the Russia story is blotting out all other conversations about his administration and what he believes to be a number of underreported successes.
And the fact that we know that Kushner isn’t exactly the most beloved figure in the White House, having already had a very public run-in with senior strategist Steve Bannon back in April.
This is the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object: An angry Trump looking for someone to blame for the ongoing Russia story settles on the one person who has always been deemed un-fireable in his White House.
Count me as skeptical that Kushner is going anywhere – if for no other reason than Donald Trump listens to Ivanka Trump more than he listens to anyone else in the world. Firing her husband – or publicly demoting him – is a sure-fire recipe to break that most important bond for Donald Trump.
But that doesn’t mean the current Kushner conundrum won’t have consequences. Trump might not be willing – or able – to get rid of Kushner, but if past is prologue he will find some staffer (or maybe a few) to project his frustration onto.
While stories of potential staff shakeups seem like a weekly occurrence in this White House, Trump’s mounting ire – and the likelihood that its source can’t be easily eliminated – may create the right conditions for an actual senior staff shuffle.
Kushner will almost certainly survive if such a shuffle comes to pass. But he will have been the catalyst of it. And while he likely will remain, it may be as damaged goods in the eyes of his father-in-law, AKA the President.