Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience

.. Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico

.. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report.

.. The issue of foreign officials talking about their meetings with Kushner and their perceptions of his vulnerabilities was a subject raised in McMaster’s daily intelligence briefings

.. Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him

.. Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked”

.. conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel

.. White House officials said McMaster was taken aback by some of Kushner’s foreign contacts.

.. Kushner came to his position with an unusually complex set of business holdings and a family company facing significant debt issues.

.. Officials from the UAE identified Kushner as early as the spring of 2017 as particularly manipulable because of his family’s search for investors in their real estate company

.. Not fully disclosing foreign contacts ordinarily would result in a clearance being denied, experts said.

.. One of his top business concerns was what to do with his family’s investment in 666 Fifth Ave. in New York, which the company bought under his direction for $1.8 billion in 2007, the highest price paid at the time for a U.S. office tower

.. leaving the company with a $1.2 billion debt that comes due in January 2019.

.. The Manhattan property has been a particularly nettlesome problem inside the government because Kushner’s company has sought foreign money on the project.

.. Kushner and his company had proposed a redevelopment plan that would double the building’s size, requiring major new investment.

.. They met with an executive of a Chinese-run insurance company, Anbang

.. They also discussed a possible investment by the former finance minister of Qatar

.. Questions have also been raised about whether Kushner discussed financing with a Russian banker. He met in December 2016 with Sergey Gorkov

.. The bank has said they talked about “promising business lines and sectors,”

.. With the deadline for the $1.2 billion debt looming, the company has continued to search for a lender. The redevelopment plan appears to be on hold

.. The company, which is privately held, has stressed that the Fifth Avenue property is a small fraction of its assets and that it is doing well financially.

Donald Trump, our first millennial president

Everybody — but especially the olds — loves to hate on millennials. We’re lazy, entitled, emotionally stunted, spendthrift, narcissistic, promiscuous snowflakes.

.. But if Bill Clinton was once our “first black president,” surely Trump can be our first millennial president.

.. despite the fact that as of Monday — more than a month after Hurricane Maria hit — four-fifths of the island still has no power. A quarter lacks clean drinking water.

.. This is hardly the first time Trump has insisted upon, or even invented, accolades to celebrate his own mediocrity. He claimed to have received environmental awards that never existed. His golf clubs displayed fake Time magazine covers featuring his face.

.. Millennial Trump overshares constantly on social media, sometimes even Instagramming his food. He live-tweets his favorite TV show instead of getting real work done. Although no longer a minor, he still requires constant helicopter parenting from the grown-ups around him, as if he’s in an adult day care.

.. he can’t tolerate speech that hurts his feewings . Words that offend him are “unfair,” “frankly disgusting,” “bad for the country.” He then tries every weapon available to shut down those words.

.. Trump personally demanded that the Senate Intelligence Committee investigate media outlets he dislikes and suggested that networks should have their broadcast licenses revoked. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in subsequent days a Morning Consult poll found that half of Republicans agreed with him.

Huh. It’s almost as if 19-year-olds aren’t actually the country’s greatest threat to the First Amendment.

.. Trump casts himself as a perpetual victim, the uncontested winner of the oppression Olympics.

.. As with millennials, Trump has taken on loads of debt — though to be fair, that seems to bring much more joy to Trump than to 20- and 30-somethings. Maybe because real millennials expect to pay it back.

.. Morally lax, prone to revisionist history and obsessed with identity politics, Trump exemplifies all that is annoying and wrong with my generation — at least according to every Lena-Dunham-despising crank who once walked uphill both ways.

.. Like any true millennial, Trump refused to pay his dues in an industry where he had no experience. Instead, on the strength of his personal brand alone, he declared himself entitled to the top job. Self-promotion leading to immediate professional promotion?

 

Trump Just Doesn’t Get It

It was brilliant and typically shrewd for the author of The Art of the Deal to take the very first offer the Democrats made and ask for nothing in return.

.. Less obsequious observers on the right claimed that this was the long-prophesied moment. The seventh seal had been broken. Donald Trump was “pivoting” at last. “The pivot is real and it’s spectacular!” proclaimed Ben Domenech, the publisher of The Federalist.

.. The former New York Democrat holds no deep love for ideological conservatism, and many of his favorite issues — protectionism, infrastructure, etc. — are more naturally part of the Democratic portfolio.

.. For years, Republicans said that if they could win both Congress and the White House, there’d be nothing they couldn’t do. Whether this was a lie or just wishful thinking is debatable. Regardless, they failed for several reasons.

  1. The Republican majority in the Senate is much narrower than the Democratic majority was when Obama was elected.
  2. Many GOP leaders never thought Trump would win, and so they hadn’t prepared for victory.
  3. Also, the Republican party is divided along a host of fault lines,
  4. and a large swath of the Republican caucus has no experience at actually governing.
  5. .. The problem is there’s another reason Congress has disappointed the president and his most ardent supporters: Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing.

.. Trump is “being pulled in a bunch of different directions, and because he doesn’t have any strong ideological anchor, or deep knowledge of the issue, he ends up sort of not knowing what to do.” Instead, the president goes with his gut on everything, letting himself be baited by negative TV coverage.

The Missiles of August

In reality, the Cuban missile crisis was the kind of scenario many of us feared could follow the election of Donald Trump: An inexperienced president gets elected on promises of toughness and flagrant lies, makes a series of bad decisions that provoke escalation from our foes, at which point political considerations make him feel he can’t back down, and suddenly we’re staring at nuclear war.

.. That’s basically the sequence of events that gave us the Cuban crisis, as Ben Schwarz pointed out in a revisionist Atlantic essay in 2013. Kennedy was elected after attacking Richard Nixon over a supposed “missile gap” with Russia that did not exist. He proceeded to fulfill his promise to Make America Tough Again with a series of poorly planned, Mafia-entangled, occasionally ludicrous attempts to unseat Fidel Castro, culminating in the Bay of Pigs disaster. At the same time, he went ahead with a plan to place Jupiter missiles in Turkey, a provocative gesture that made the Soviets suspect that we were looking for opportunities for a nuclear first strike.

.. When Khrushchev responded to this aggression and incompetence with the missiles-to-Cuba scheme, Kennedy decided that while the missiles did not place the United States in greater military danger (a nuke is a nuke whether fired from Havana, Russia or a submarine off the U.S. coast), they created an unacceptable political problem for his presidential credibility. Thus the escalation that followed — the quarantine, the invasion threat, the nuclear brinksmanship.

.. “success” required giving the Russians the strategic concession they had originally sought. The Jupiters were removed as well, but on a delayed timetable to allow the Kennedy White House to deceive about the crisis’ resolution. Meanwhile, American efforts to overthrow Castro diminished, and his regime endures today.

.. The weapons’ purpose is blackmail and self-protection, with no Cold War grand strategy involved. The U.S. military seems more likely to be a restraining force in this crisis than a hawkish one.

.. Meanwhile Trump himself is far more publicly unmastered and privately ignorant than J.F.K. But in fairness, Trump also has confined his real bellicosity to Twitter, without ordering any Kennedy-esque military misadventures or escalations yet.

.. My sense is that he would gladly — nay, eagerly — take a version of the deal that Kennedy ultimately struck: a bargain that looked better publicly for the U.S. than in secret, that allowed him to claim success even if the reality were different.

..  the concessions we would have to make to Pyongyang are unlikely to be kept secret.

..  can see the price of letting a U.S. president save too much face.

.. So it’s more likely that if we avert war, it will be because Trump is fundamentally a bluffer, who will issue threats on Twitter but won’t overrule his advisers if they tell him not to give an order that will leave hundreds of thousands dead.

Unfortunately, the bluster and incompetence will also probably make any deal worse than it otherwise might be.

But that’s the nature of the Trump presidency: You root for the least-bad outcome, knowing that the best one is probably already out of reach.

Fears of Missiles, and Words

But Mr. Trump is president of the United States, and if prudent, disciplined leadership was ever required, it is now. Rhetorically stomping his feet, as he did on Tuesday, is not just irresponsible; it is dangerous. He is no longer a businessman trying to browbeat someone into a deal. He commands the most powerful nuclear and conventional arsenal in the world, and any miscalculation could be catastrophic.

.. This is a president with no prior government or military experience who has shown no clear grasp of complex strategic issues.

.. his inflammatory words were entirely improvised and took his closest associates by surprise. Intentionally or not, they echoed President Harry Truman’s 1945 pledgeto inflict a “rain of ruin from the air” if Japan did not surrender after the first atomic bomb was dropped at Hiroshima, which made them seem even more ominous.

It is hard to believe that they would condone Mr. Trump’s risky approach, and on Wednesday, the damage control began.

  • While Mr. Mattis reinforced his boss’s belligerent tone and expressed confidence that North Korea would “lose any arms race or conflict it initiates,” he more prudently focused on the North’s concrete “actions” rather than on vague threats and voiced support for a diplomatic solution.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he saw no reason to believe that war was imminent.
  • Meanwhile, some White House aides reportedly urged reporters not to read too much into the president’s remarks.

.. Since Truman, presidents have largely avoided the kind of militaristic threats issued by Mr. Trump because they feared such language could escalate a crisis.

.. Mr. Trump has again made himself the focus of attention, when it should be Kim Jong-un, the ruthless North Korean leader, and his accelerating nuclear

.. Engaging in a war of words with North Korea only makes it harder for both sides to de-escalate.

Shields and Brooks on the Senate health care bill unveiled, Trump’s tape clarification

Brooks: I favor using market mechanisms to redistribute wealth and reduce inequality.

Shields: The Democrats have to come up with what they are for, rather than what they are against.

Nancy Pelosi passed the Affordable Care Act and raised millions.  She is the most effective leader ..

Brooks: After Trump leaves, will this be the new norm

Shields: Americans don’t believe that Trump is honest, trustworthy, knowledgeable, experience, or has right temperament.

y Trump is seeing how hard it can be to land the ‘ultimate’ deal between Israel and the Palestinians

“There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever,” Trump said in April.

.. The Abbas video is similar to others produced by Israel and shown to U.S. officials in the past, U.S. and Israeli officials said. But this one appeared aimed at discrediting Abbas personally and triggering an “emotional response” from Trump on the eve of his meeting with the aging Palestinian leader, said a senior U.S. official briefed on the meeting.

.. Trump is inexperienced even if he’s not naive, veterans of past peace efforts said. He is now having a “health-care moment,” in which he realizes that something that looked doable on paper turns out to be far more complicated than he first imagined, said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator.

“Who knew it would be so hard and complicated?” Levy joked.

.. “Netanyahu’s game plan is not new — he attempts to shift the focus onto diversions and distractions that he hopes will make the Palestinians look bad and will keep the pressure off him when it comes to offering something on the substance of a peace deal,” Levy said. Hence the Israeli focus on incitement and Palestinian payments to the families of prisoners accused of violence against Israelis, he said.

Palestinian officials claim that many of the arrests are the result of opposition to illegal occupation and that they have a duty to support the families of those jailed.