Jared Kushner’s Role Is Tested as Russia Case Grows

Mr. Kushner, who at age 36 occupies an ill-defined role somewhere between princeling and President Trump’s shadow chief of staff

.. He is respected by virtually everyone and is working on programs that will save our country billions of dollars. In addition to that, and perhaps more importantly, he is a very good person

.. That relationship had already begun to fray a bit after Mr. Trump’s dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, which Mr. Kushner had strongly advocated, and because of his repeated attempts to oust Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, as well as the president’s overburdened communications team, especially Sean Spicer, the press secretary.

.. It has been duly noted in the White House that Mr. Trump, who feels that he has been ill served by his staff, has increasingly included Mr. Kushner when he dresses down aides and officials

.. the most serious point of contention .. sister Nicole Meyer .. dangled the availability of EB-5 visas

.. In the following days during routine West Wing meetings, the president made several snarky, disparaging comments about Mr. Kushner’s family and the visas that were clearly intended to express his annoyance

.. Both men were reared in the freewheeling, ruthless world of real estate, and both possess an unshakable self-assurance that is both their greatest attribute and their direst vulnerability.

.. a deep confidence in his abilities that critics say borders on conceit

.. intensely proud of his accomplishments in the private

.. is given license to exercise power and take on a vague portfolio .. without suffering the consequences of failure

.. propensity for avoiding messy aspects of his job

.. he wants nothing to do with the legislative process

.. Mr. Bannon .. has taken to comparing the former real estate executive to “the air,” because he blows in and out of meetings leaving little trace

.. Mr. Kushner quickly forms fixed opinions about people, sometimes based on scant evidence.

.. Often, that entails soothing Mr. Trump.

.. Mr. Kushner has made it plain to them that they needed to choose sides or be iced out

.. Mr. Kushner remains infuriated by what he believes to be leaks about his team by Mr. Bannon

.. Mr. Trump admires Mr. Kushner’s tough streak, and shares his taste for payback

.. Mr. Kushner sees his role as a freelance troubleshooter

.. Mr. Kushner has quietly sought revenge on enemies

The Apostle Paul on The Body of Christ

I’ve never heard a single sermon my entire life on the tenth commandment—“Thou shalt not covet . . . anything that is thy neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17)—because coveting goods is the only game in town now. It’s called capitalism and consumerism! In Paul’s thinking, those big cultural blind spots can only be overcome by a group of people living and affirming and supporting one another in an alternative lifestyle. Smaller groups like the Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, and some Catholic religious orders were able to create actual alternative cultures.

For Paul, community is the living organism that communicates the Gospel message. Paul, like Jesus, wants to change culture here, not just send people away to a far-off heaven later! If Christ’s cosmic message doesn’t take form in a concrete group of people, then, as far as Paul is concerned, it is an unbelievable message. An autonomous Christian is as impossible as an independent arm or leg.

.. When Paul says, “without love I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2), he implies that he is inside of another Being who is Love.

.. Paul sees what we will eventually call the “communion of saints” (by the fifth and sixth centuries) as an organism that is very alive, real, and operative in this world. I like to call it an “energy fieldcreated by all those who share in the various parts of Christ. “Salvation” is thus something we can participate in right here and now.

.. Paul does not make heroes of individuals, but it is precisely as members of the Body that they “shine like stars” as “perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhanded brood” (Philippians 2:15). Paul sees his small communities as an adequate “leaven” by which God will eventually change the whole debauched Roman Empire (Paul got the word “yeast” or “leaven” from Jesus, see Matthew 13:33). Talk about patience and confidence!

The Deconstruction of the West

The greatest threat to the liberal international order comes not from Russia, China, or jihadist terror but from the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture.

.. the fracturing of the collective West. And yet the unraveling of the idea of the West has degraded our ability to respond with a clear strategy to protect our regional and global interests.

.. The problem confronting the West today stems not from a shortage of power, but rather from the inability to build consensus on the shared goals and interests in whose name that power ought to be applied.

.. The growing instability in the international system is not, as some argue, due to the rise of China as an aspiring global power, the resurgence of Russia as a systemic spoiler, the aspirations of Iran for regional hegemony, or the rogue despotism of a nuclear-armed North Korea

.. The West’s problem today is also not mainly the result of the economic decline of the United States or the European Union

.. Nor is the increasing global instability due to a surge in Islamic jihadism across the globe

.. At the core of the deepening dysfunction in the West is the self-induced deconstruction of Western culture and, with it, the glue that for two centuries kept Europe and the United States at the center of the international system.

.. The West prevailed then because it was confident that on balance it offered the best set of ideas, values, and principles for others to emulate.

.. It has been replaced by elite narratives substituting shame for pride and indifference to one’s own heritage for patriotism.

The Young Trump: Jared Kushner is more like his father-in-law than anyone imagines.

With little experience, and against all predictions to the contrary, Kushner had managed Trump’s way to the White House, and was now poised to be his most trusted adviser and enforcer in the West Wing.

.. He had come to offer a message to his old friends: Be unafraid.

.. He thought about immigration in terms of Silicon Valley’s needs, about education the way Robin Hood Foundation philanthropists did, about climate change in terms of carbon emissions, not mining jobs. Then, about a year ago, Kushner said, he had started traveling the country with Trump, going to rallies where thousands of ordinary Americans shouted in fury about government regulations and the Common Core curriculum.

.. David Zaslav, the chief executive of the Discovery cable networks, asked Kushner how it would be possible in the future to have a national discussion based on facts. Kushner replied that it was the media that was deluded about America, claiming his own computer models told him the morning of the election that Trump would capture more than 300 electoral votes.

.. Kushner believes Trump’s victory was a repudiation of the media and both political parties — the entire governing Establishment. He said he was “proud” Trump had won only 4 percent of the vote in Washington, D.C.

.. He predicted the administration would take a “rational” position on immigration and would join with Democrats to invest in infrastructure, which he said could mean not only roads and bridges but high-speed internet and driverless cars. He said Trump had asked Elon Musk why the aerospace industry couldn’t make planes that fly faster, like the Concorde used to, and Musk replied that most CEOs preferred incremental improvements to moon-shot risks.

.. Ten blocks to the north, in his golden tower, Trump was nominating a climate-change skeptic for Interior secretary and tweeting gleefully about Russian hacking, even as his son-in-law said America needed to take a long-term view of the “warfare of the future.”

.. Kushner flattered the Partnership audience by saying the president-elect was happy to be bringing so many billionaires to D.C., asking, “Who else to do you want to see cutting deals?”

.. Kushner’s impact can be seen in the centrist tilt of Trump’s economic team, which is heavy on Goldman Sachs guys. For secretary of State, he preferred Mitt Romney and, later, Rex Tillerson over bomb-throwers like John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani.

.. “For a guy who was a progressive,” Bannon says, “he really gets this grassroots populist movement in a huge way.”

.. “We have no formal chain of command around here,” Trump said

.. the depth of Kushner’s commitment to Trump’s reactionary agenda was surrounded by a bit of what Henry Kissinger — a Kushner admirer — would call constructive ambiguity.

.. he had always been quick to champion Trump to his many detractors and expressed admiration for his knack for self-promotion and his impish ability to play the press for suckers. But Kushner never gave the impression that he had anything more than a grudging son-in-law’s level of tolerance for Trump’s more radical positions.

.. Back when Trump was spinning birther conspiracy theories, which were lapped up by gullible Republicans, one person who talked to Kushner says he offered assurances that his father-in-law didn’t really believe that stuff.

.. His voice is just literally soft. His opinions are anything but deferential. “He’s very aggressive,” says Zelnick, who says that once Kushner makes up his mind, “it may look like he’s barreling down a path.”

.. Above all, he and Trump share a clannish outlook on life, business, and politics. Trump prizes loyalty, especially when it flows upward, and no defender has been more steadfast during his turbulent struggle than Kushner. Neither forgets when he’s been wronged. They both appear to enjoy the metallic taste of payback, although of the two, Trump may be the more forgiving.

.. In fact, “family first” is his paramount value, a personal principle instilled in him through bitter history.

.. Rae Kushner, the family’s matriarch, was born in Novogrudek, in what is now Belarus. When the Nazis arrived in 1941, they executed the town’s Jewish doctors, lawyers, and intellectuals on the square, as an orchestra played. Rae, a teenager, was one of 50 girls selected to scrub their blood from the cobblestones.

.. They ended up in a displaced-persons camp, where they spent three and a half years while the family waited for a visa to immigrate to the United States. “Nobody wanted to take us in,” Rae said in The Miracle of Life. At the time, the United States had immigration quotas based on ethnicity. “For the Jews, the doors were closed. We never understood that. Even President Roosevelt kept the doors closed.”

.. “You cater to the masses, you eat with the classes.”

.. He has also served as a bridge to the government of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has known the Kushners for years.

.. Through Jared’s teenage years, his father became increasingly involved in politics, becoming a top Democratic Party donor. Politicians with national aspirations, including Hillary Clinton, would regularly pay visits to the Kushners.

.. Charlie wanted more than just zoning approvals. He aspired to be a kingmaker.

.. that was Charlie’s flaw: his craving for a public role.

.. Chris Christie, the ambitious U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, who appeared to relish the idea of pursuing Governor McGreevey’s patron.

.. Jared saw his father as a victim of injustice. “It’s an outrage that Charlie’s brother and sister cooperated with the government against him; that’s the lowest thing a Jew can do in my book,”

.. The youthful staff at the Observer made subsistence wages, but the writers didn’t seem bothered about money. They competed instead for the fickle approval of the paper’s charismatic editor, Peter Kaplan, who cultivated an air of intellectual eccentricity punctuated by sarcastic exclamation points.

.. If Kushner, then 25, was seeking to confirm a suspicion that the media was made up of socially insecure smartasses who glory in the human failings of the rich and powerful, he couldn’t have picked a better place to educate himself.

.. Kaplan told friends that Kushner’s favorite book was The Count of Monte Cristo, the story of a wronged man who escapes prison, becomes rich, and uses his wealth to stealthily visit vengeance upon his unsuspecting enemies.

.. Wildstein was hired by Christie and engineered the politically retributive traffic jam at the George Washington Bridge. After the scheme came to light, Kushner sent an email to Wildstein, who had resigned amid the investigation. “That’s another thing we have in common I guess with my Dad having done the same,” he wrote. “For what its worth, I thought the move you pulled was kind of badass.”

.. Ray Kelly, the former NYPD commissioner, who got to know Kushner as a donor to the New York City Police Foundation

.. he saw Kushner as a “law-and-order person” who was supportive of the Bloomberg administration’s technocratic approach to government. Kushner was also close to Joel Klein, the schools chancellor, who influenced his views on education reform

.. In 2006, Jared negotiated the purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue for $1.8 billion, a record sum for a Manhattan office building at the time. The transaction was financed by an onerous amount of debt. The following year, the Kushner Companies liquidated its apartment portfolio for $1.9 billion. The shift was akin to trading a fleet of taxicabs for a single Formula 1 race car. “It wasn’t my idea to buy a New York building,” says Hammer, who was chairman of the company during Charlie’s absence. “That was really the idea of a very aggressive, ambitious young man.”

.. Kushner’s loans were premised on the assumption that office rents would rise; instead, the economy crashed.

.. Vulture investors bought the debt, threatening foreclosure. Kushner felt besieged, with few friends and no leverage.

.. Kushner didn’t forget who had been unkind to him along the way.

.. Kushner emerged from the crisis with a reputation as a gutsy dealmaker.

.. “He’s very uncluttered in his mind,”

.. “I think that simplicity allows him to filter some things out.”

.. Kushner managed to tune out the doubts of those who thought the prices he and his partners had paid, more than $1 billion in all, were hard to justify.

.. Kushner’s public identity underwent its own conversion. In the newspapers, he was no longer inevitably identified as a felon’s son — he was Ivanka’s husband, an auxiliary Trump.

.. Kushner and a local partner developed the building on a site they bought out of foreclosure in 2011. As is his practice, Trump lends his name via a branding and management deal, while Kushner’s partnership owns and financed the development.

.. The partnership raised about a third of its projected $193 million cost via the federal EB-5 program, which offers green cards to foreign investors. Bloomberg News reported that it was marketed to would-be Chinese immigrants

.. he would return to New York, which was dwelling in its comfortable delusions. “Nobody has less credibility than the people in this town,” he recently told an associate. “If you want to talk with yourselves all day and convince yourselves that you’re right, that’s what people in this town do all day.” Trump was giving voice to authentic grievances, Kushner thought

.. For all the criticism he has encountered, though, Kushner has displayed supreme confidence in his own judgment.

.. “If the campaign was proof of anything, it was that neither prior campaign experience nor, perhaps especially, presidential-campaign experience was required,”

.. “Pollsters are total thieves,” he said in his speech to the Partnership. Kushner pushed the campaign to use direct-marketing strategies employed by private tech companies.

.. “Why did he have to do it that way, why did he say it this way? Et cetera,” he says. “And I would always get a typical Jared response from him that was, ‘Look, there’s a bigger picture here, you know, I know what he said maybe didn’t look good, but he really didn’t mean it that way.’

.. Kushner received more scorching emails, too, some of them from people he respected. He viewed these as useful data points — he now knew who his loyal friends were. “I call it an exfoliation,”

.. The criticism seemed to trigger a practiced defense mechanism. In private conversations, he would return to the prior experience of his father’s arrest and his brush with financial ruin at 666 Fifth. “I’ve been in quite a few foxholes in my life,”

.. Kushner found in Bannon a strategist just as disdainful as he was of the traditional campaign playbook. “He threw the whole thing out,” Bannon says. “That’s why I bonded with him.”

.. Kushner arguably has more in common with Bannon — an insurgent attitude, a disdain for the GOP Establishment, a background in digital media — than with anyone in Trump’s orbit besides Ivanka.

.. Kushner, as a family member, was often the person called on to broach difficult conversations with Trump, such as firing Lewandowski or talking him out of offering the vice-presidency to Governor Chris Christie.

.. in its final days, the campaign needed $10 million to buy advertising in several key states, which analysts gave Trump little chance of winning, Kushner made the ask. “He appealed to him by saying, ‘I know this is family money and personal wealth, I get it, and I also know that you can win and we need that extra infusion,’ ”

.. Kushner recruited Bill Stepien, the ruthless campaign manager that Christie fired for his role in the bridge plot, to be Trump’s political director.

.. If Trump’s administration is anything like his campaign, or the rest of his life, it is likely to be split along lines of clan, with the conservative Republicans — Pence, Conway, and chief-of-staff Reince Priebus — competing for influence with the cadre of outsiders who are loyal to Trump, foremost among them Kushner and Ivanka

.. “Certainly a president needs someone to say, ‘Look, this isn’t helpful to you, this isn’t helpful to the country,’ ” Reed says. “I think Jared will play that role.” Still, there’s little evidence that anyone can moderate Trump, other than Trump himself

.. Some of the same Manhattan liberals who ostracized him during the campaign were rattled afterward, and they sent him emails, trying to offer healing words of congratulations and conciliation. These went right in the trash. Kushner is in no mood to offer comfort