U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (standing, L-R), Vice President Mike Pence and Staff Secretary Rob Porter welcomes...
JONATHAN ERNST

When the president’s son-in-law gets too much power

The most powerful man in the White House shouldn’t be the president’s son-in-law, and yet, Jared Kushner’s portfolio is quickly becoming the punch-line to a very strange joke.

Here, for example, was the news last night:
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is in Iraq, a senior U.S. official told NBC News on Sunday.

The source said Kushner is traveling with Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The visit wasn’t announced in advance, and no information on the purpose of the trip was immediately available.
That NBC News report came the same day as the New York Times reported on Kushner’s central role in preparing for the Chinese president’s visit.
When President Trump welcomes President Xi Jinping of China to his palm-fringed Florida club for two days of meetings on Thursday, the studied informality of the gathering will bear the handiwork of two people: China’s ambassador to Washington and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The Chinese ambassador, Cui Tiankai, has established a busy back channel to Mr. Kushner, according to several officials briefed on the relationship. The two men agreed on the club, Mar-a-Lago, as the site for the meeting, and the ambassador even sent Mr. Kushner drafts of a joint statement that China and the United States could issue afterward.
The article added that Kushner attended a meeting of the National Security Council’s “principals committee” to discuss North Korea last month.

There are all kinds of angles to this, including Kushner’s family exploring business deals in China, creating possible ethical conflicts, and the fact that the upcoming meeting is happening at Trump’s for-profit business in Florida, creating additional possible ethical conflicts.

But for now, let’s put that aside and focus on two separate areas of concern.

The first is that Kushner, when he gets back from Iraq, will be conducting negotiations with a rival who’s vastly more qualified than he is. The Financial Times reported over the weekend:
Though he has almost no China background, Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law, is leading the US preparation for next week’s meeting. His counterpart is Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador in Washington. That, alone, gives China an edge. Mr Cui is a professional diplomat who knows America well – he did his postgraduate studies in the US capital and worked as an interpreter at the UN.

Mr Kushner’s chief qualification is that he is married to the president’s daughter. Mr Cui has just one job – US-China relations.
And second, Trump may have trust issues with officials throughout the executive branch, but Jared Kushner’s list of responsibilities is getting a little silly. He’s in Iraq; he’s preparing for a Chinese delegation; he’s leading the White House Office of American Innovation; and last week he met with lawmakers to discuss criminal-justice reforms.

As Rachel noted on the show the other day, Kushner is also the point person on Middle East peace, U.S. policy towards Canada, U.S. policy towards Mexico, border-wall construction, trade deals, infrastructure, reimagining the Veterans Administration, broadband policy, and tackling the opioid crisis.

Or put another way, the president’s 36-year-old son-in-law has quickly become one of the most powerful individuals in the American government, despite having roughly as much experience in government as Donald Trump – which is to say, none prior to Jan. 20.

To reiterate a point from last week, let’s not forget that we also recently learned about Kushner’s previously undisclosed meeting with the head of a Russian bank – an institution with direct ties to Vladimir Putin and Russian spy services – which came after his previously undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States, which helps explain why Kushner is set to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation.

How Trump’s son-in-law will find time to prepare for his testimony remains something of a mystery.

Donald Trump and White House

When the president's son-in-law gets too much power