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Nov 25 2017

A Chilly Thanksgiving?

Mine was fine. No permanent damage. In some places it may have been a bit more… frosty.

The shrinking profile of Jared Kushner
By Ashley Parker, Washington Post
November 25

His still-evolving role in the investigations of Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice also make him a potential risk to President Trump, even as he enjoys the special status of being married to the boss’s daughter, Ivanka, and serving as one of the president’s senior confidants. Kushner’s family faces additional pressures over a troubled New York skyscraper at 666 Fifth Ave., which he purchased in his role as head of his family’s real estate business but from which he has divested since entering the administration.

In a rare interview in his West Wing office earlier this month — a silver bowl of Halloween candy still on the table — Kushner offered his own version of the fable of the fox, who knows many things, and the hedgehog, who knows one important thing.

“During the campaign, I was more like a fox than a hedgehog. I was more of a generalist having to learn about and master a lot of skills quickly,” he said. “When I got to D.C., I came with an understanding that the problems here are so complex — and if they were easy problems, they would have been fixed before — and so I became more like the hedgehog, where it was more taking issues you care deeply about, going deep and devoting the time, energy and resources to trying to drive change.”

Following recent reports, which the White House denied, that the president privately blames Kushner for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s widening probe, ­Breitbart, the conservative website, snarkily dubbed him “Mr. Perfect.” The nickname originated from promotional material Kushner’s own family used, when trying to lure Chinese investors to their New Jersey real estate projects.

Some aides scoff at the notion that Kushner isn’t still whispering to the president about official business. But one of Kelly’s conditions for taking the job was that everyone, including Kushner and his wife, had to go through him to reach the president, and Kelly has made clear that Kushner reports to him, aides said.

The new hierarchy is part of Kelly’s effort to sideline Kushner, said one Republican in frequent contact with the White House. Others say the order Kelly imposed has simply liberated Kushner to focus on his own portfolio — and eased some of the animosity his colleagues felt toward him.

Kushner said he welcomes the change. “The order allows this place to function,” Kushner said. “My number one priority is a high-functioning White House because I believe in the president’s agenda, and I think it should get executed.”

The Mueller probe, meanwhile, is entering a new phase, with the special counsel announcing three indictments at the end of last month — including for Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — while investigators begin to interview people close to the president’s inner circle. Kushner has turned over documents to the House and Senate committees investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, although in a letter, the Senate Judiciary Committee recently complained that Kushner had not been fully forthcoming — a charge his lawyer denies.

So far, Mueller has filed no court documents to suggest Kushner is in legal jeopardy, but people close to the case say investigators have been looking at his meetings with Russians before and after the election, as well as his role in discussions that led to the firing of FBI director James B. Comey.

Kushner’s detractors point to his role in the Russia probe as another sign of his poor political skills and continued risk to the president. A Republican close to the White House said Kushner “has no judgment — never has and never will.”

But in some ways, Kushner appears more protected from the daily sniping that plagued the early months of Trump’s presidency. Over the summer, a trio of advisers who were rivals to Kushner were pushed out of the West Wing: Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist, who now runs Breitbart; Reince Priebus, the chief of staff; and Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

“He no longer is in an environment where he has an actual predator,” said one White House official, likening Kushner to Bannon’s regular prey. “That has probably helped his working environment some.”

Kushner, with his whispery voice, has also proved one of the few people adept at absorbing Trump’s anger. He can speak to Trump in a shared language of transaction from their days in the New York real estate world.

“I don’t try to manage him,” Kushner said. “I try to give him my honest feedback. If he asks my advice on something, sometimes I’ll give it, sometimes I’ll say, ‘Let me go call a few people,’ and then I’ll give it.”

McMaster said Kushner sometimes acts as a translator between the president and his senior advisers. “He helped a lot of us learn faster what’s important to the president,” McMaster said. “His relationship with the president makes Jared valuable as an adviser to the president, and also as an adviser to the president’s advisers.”

When Kushner’s family first arrived in Washington, they agreed they would assess after six months whether they intended to stay. Trump himself has mused privately about the hit his daughter and son-in-law’s reputation is taking because of their White House roles and about what a great and easy life they had back in New York. Others have questioned why someone like Kushner would put himself in Mueller’s crosshairs by remaining in government.

But when the couple reassessed in July, they reached a decision. “We’re here to stay,” Kushner said. “At the current moment, we’re charging forward.”

He added, “My wife asked me the other day if we should be looking at new houses, so that’s a good sign.”

“πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα”

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