Still Standing, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump Step Back in the Spotlight

  • They disappointed climate change activists who thought they would keep President Trump from leaving the landmark Paris accord.
  • They enraged Democrats and even some Republicans by not pushing back against his immigration policies, and
  • alienated business allies by their silence over threats to Nafta. They regularly faced news stories about their unpopularity.

Even their relationship with the president seemed to suffer.

Several times Mr. Trump joked that he “could have had Tom Brady” as a son-in-law. “Instead,” the president said, according to five people who heard him, “I got Jared Kushner.”

.. It did not help that the president had gone from telling aides to “talk to Jared,” as he did during the campaign, to telling them that “Jared hasn’t been so good for me.”

.. At various points, Mr. Trump told friends and his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, that he wished both Jared and Ivanka would return to New York.

.. It was only in May that Mr. Kushner had his security clearance restored

.. “I think they felt in some ways when things escalated that they thought it was best to keep a lower profile and hone in on their specific policy areas,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders

.. once said that she did not intend to stay in the capital long enough to become one of its “political creatures” — people she feels are “so principled that they get nothing done,”

.. home is now in Washington, where their children attend Jewish schools and their house is routinely watched by papraazzi as they depart for work or go for a run. 

.. As for separating immigrant families, she added, “How do they sleep at night?”

.. In response to critics like Ms. Rosen, the couple have argued that they can temper Mr. Trump only if he is willing to listen.

.. Mr. Kushner has convinced the president that criminal justice reform is worthwhile, even as his attorney general remains a vocal opponent.

.. Mr. Kushner has shown an adeptness at using the president’s impulses to steer him toward his own priorities. When Mr. Kushner ushered Kim Kardashian West into the Oval Office to speak about commuting the life sentence of an African-American woman named Alice Marie Johnson, Mr. Trump ignored the concerns of his advisers and freed Ms. Johnson, dazzled by his power to grant clemency and Ms. Kardashian’s celebrity.

.. Her supporters argue that she is in an untenable situation if she speaks out in public. Her father said she had addressed the issue with him privately, further inflaming her critics.

.. Mr. Kushner appears to see himself as the custodian of Mr. Trump’s political brand, offering his father-in-law “options,” and has spoken about clearing out the Republican Party of lingering resistance. He has privately said that he has been taking action against “incompetence” and that any tensions are a result of fighting for his father-in-law’s best interests.

.. His detractors say the friction stems from Mr. Kushner’s meddling in things for which he is out of his depth, like when the president, following his own preference, huddled with Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump instead of his top policy advisers before his meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

.. Ms. Richards wrote in a memoir that they had offered her a deal that felt like a “bribe” — continued federal funding for the group in return for a halt to providing abortions.

.. Inside the White House, the couple’s influence is most felt in internal battles, particularly with aides they do not regard as loyal to their mission — or Mr. Trump’s.

.. That is particularly true of Mr. Kushner, who, critics say, shares his father-in-law’s desire for control. Over the course of Mr. Trump’s campaign and presidency, Mr. Kushner has been seen as trying to undercut or as being at odds with a long list of aides — some who remain, many who have left.

The list includes:

  • Mr. Trump’s first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski;
  • his first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and his associates;
  • his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon;
  • Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel;
  • the White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway;
  • the first head of the presidential transition, Chris Christie;
  • the former secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson;
  • Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and
  • his longtime lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz.

Their privileged permanence as family members has allowed them to outlast other aides in an environment where expectations have been shifted and, at times, lowered on their behalf.

.. Both husband and wife, like Mr. Trump, are said to hang on to grudges, but Mr. Kushner is far more transactional than his wife. Like his father-in-law, he appears to convince himself that fights did not happen if someone has become useful to him.

.. A persistent obstacle to both Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump is Mr. Kelly, whose approach to security clearances they feel unfairly targeted them, and who, they have confided to associates, they believe has spread negative information about them.

.. Though they have insisted that they are not trying to play a role in a succession plan for Mr. Kelly, few West Wing staff members believe that.

.. Both Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner are widely believed to support Nick Ayers, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, as Mr. Kelly’s successor.

..

Whoever the replacement is would join a new set of aides who — many with the couple’s support — have replaced the familiar faces from the 2016 campaign.

When

  • Bill Shine, the former Fox News executive, was preparing to join the White House, Mr. Kushner, with Ms. Trump’s support, gave him their stamp of approval. It was Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump who wanted
  • Mercedes Schlapp, a well-connected Republican consultant, brought into the administration. Mr. Kushner’s ally
  • Brad Parscale became the 2020 campaign manager, a move Mr. Kushner told the West Wing staff about on the morning it was publicly announced.

And they regard Stephen Miller, a supporter of some of Mr. Trump’s harshest stands on immigration, as a walking policy encyclopedia.

.. In June, when the United States won its joint bid with Canada and Mexico to host the World Cup in 2026, Mr. Kushner’s team made sure to tell reporters that it happened in part because of the efforts of the president’s son-in-law, who reportedly used some of his international contacts to win enough votes to seal the bid.

.. Ms. Collins found in Ms. Trump what many Republicans most desire: a direct line to a president sometimes at odds with his own party.

.. Ms. Trump has delivered one of the few things she can uniquely accomplish in Washington: Riding in a car together one day, she handed Ms. Collins a phone. The president was on the line.

Somebody get this man a lawyer

Dowd was just the latest of several lawyers who have bailed on Trump. His longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, was early on board and early to abandon ship — though he might yet come back. He, too, favored an aggressive strategy that, to Dowd and others, was sheer foolishness. At the moment, Trump’s team is led by Jay Sekulow, who has argued many times before the Supreme Court but has never tried a criminal case in his life. As is typical for a Trump aide, he has often appeared on Fox News. This, though, is not the same as courtroom experience.

Who’s Worse — Trump Lawyers or Their Client?

I’ve been looking for somebody to admire in the White House. Should it be Don McGahn?

Up to you. He was formerly a member of the Federal Election Commission who hated campaign-finance reform so much he once tore up the F.E.C. rule book at a meeting and threw the shredded chunks at a Democrat. He lobbied Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. He was an enabler on that immigrant travel ban.

I don’t understand how these busy lawyers have so much time to appear on TV.

Totally part of the job. Trump just hired Joe diGenova, who’s currently famous for having argued on Fox that a secret cabal of F.B.I. agents created the whole Russia investigation to “frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

For a while it looked as if Kasowitz was fading away. But now he’s back! In court arguing that as a sitting president, Trump cannot be sued by a woman who says he molested her during his “Apprentice” days.

That would be Stormy Daniels?

Oh gosh no. This is Summer Zervos, who says Trump came on with an unnerving series of gropes, and then when she resisted claimed “that he did not believe that she had ever known love or been in love.”

.. So the worse the team gets, the better for the country?

Right now, Stormy’s lawyer is making mincemeat of Trump’s legal representation. For the sake of argument, let’s say the special prosecutor has assembled at least as strong a team as the stripper did.

The Stormy Daniels Scandal Gets Serious

The real scandal, it seemed, was that there was no scandal, because no one expects any better of Trump. The religious right was willing to give him a “mulligan,” in the words of Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

.. her lawyer has filed a lawsuit arguing that the nondisclosure agreement she signed is null and void because Trump himself never signed it. The suit, ingeniously, has given Daniels’s lawyer a pretext to make that agreement public.

.. for all its sordid details, it isn’t really a sex scandal. It’s a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal.

.. But the release of the NDA makes clear that Trump himself was a party to the agreement. If Trump authorized the $130,000 payment, it’s harder to explain away his campaign’s failure to disclose it, as required by law.

.. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, all but confirmed Trump’s involvement on Wednesday, when she said that a recent arbitration proceeding — the one that resulted in the temporary restraining order — was “won in the president’s favor.”

.. the “Al Capone problem.” The Daniels NDA refers repeatedly to “property” that she agreed to turn over to Trump, including video images, still images, emails and text messages. Eisen argues that Trump was required to report ownership of this property, as well as any obligations he might have had to reimburse Cohen for the $130,000, in his federal financial disclosure forms.

.. “The asset here is this incredibly valuable agreement with Stormy,” Eisen told me. “Imagine what she could get if she has texts or images. Imagine the millions she could command!

.. the Daniels story is germane to the overriding scandal of the Trump administration, the one involving Trump’s relationship with Russia. Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled an infamous dossier of opposition research on Trump, wrote that Russia could blackmail Trump with evidence of his “sexual perversion.”

.. The NDA does, however, show that Trump was susceptible to blackmail.

.. Steve Bannon told “Fire and Fury” author Michael Wolff that another Trump lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, “took care” of “a hundred women” during the campaign.

.. David Super, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told me he was surprised by how legally strong Daniels’s lawsuit seems, due to the way the original NDA was written.

.. “Any halfway competent lawyer could have drafted the contract so that he didn’t need to sign it,” Super said of Cohen and Trump. “But they didn’t do it that way.”

.. Among other things, the NDA forbids her from discussing Trump’s “alleged children” or “paternity information.” But the scandal will lie less in the details of Trump’s degeneracy than in the steps he and his lawyers took to cover it up.

This is early days yet in the unfolding of this scandal,” said Eisen. Like Trump himself, it’s preposterous, but it’s not going away.

 

 

Trump Ordered Mueller Fired, but Backed Off When White House Counsel Threatened to Quit

President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.

.. the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.

First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.

After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said.

.. Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency.

.. Mr. McGahn, a longtime Republican campaign finance lawyer in Washington who served on the Federal Election Commission, was the top lawyer on Mr. Trump’s campaign. He has been involved in nearly every key decision Mr. Trump has made — like the firing of the former F.B.I. director

.. Around the time Mr. Trump wanted to fire Mr. Mueller, the president’s legal team, led then by his longtime personal lawyer in New York, Marc E. Kasowitz, was taking an adversarial approach to the Russia investigation. The president’s lawyers were digging into potential conflict-of-interest issues for Mr. Mueller and his team

.. Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand

.. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, whose job security is an omnipresent concern among the president’s legal team and close aides. The president’s lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending.

.. In March, after Mr. McGahn failed to persuade Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the inquiry, Mr. Trump complained that he needed someone loyal to oversee the Justice Department.

.. in July, the president pointedly kept open the option of firing Mr. Mueller, saying that the special counsel would be passing a “red line” if his investigation expanded to look at Mr. Trump’s finances.

The President and the Porn Star

. There’s a sentence in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury” that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. It comes toward the end, when Steve Bannon is praising Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz: “Kasowitz on the campaign — what did we have, a hundred women? Kasowitz took care of all of them.”

.. If it turns out there were payoffs to hide non-consensual behavior, there may be an uproar. But sleeping with a porn star while your wife has a new baby, then paying the porn star to be quiet? That’s what everyone expects of this president.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the right’s tacit embrace of a laissez faire approach to sexuality — at least male, heterosexual sexuality — coincides with attempts on the left to erect new ethical guardrails around sex.

.. In the 1990s, many feminists defended untrammeled eros because they feared a conservative sexual inquisition. Elements of that inquisition remain; attacks on reproductive rights have grown only more intense. Still, Trump has reconciled reactionary politics with male sexual license. In doing so, he’s made such license easier for feminists to criticize.

.. Among feminists, reaction to the piece broke down roughly generationally. Grace interpreted her experience as sexual assault, but several older writers saw it as a story about caddishness and bad sex, neither of which justified the invasion of Ansari’s privacy. In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan described it as “3,000 words of revenge porn” inspired by romantic disappointment.

.. I agree with Flanagan that the bad behavior Grace described doesn’t rise to the level of assault or harassment, and I don’t think Babe should have published the story. Still, I can sympathize with the younger feminists who are pushing the limits of the #MeToo movement. They are, it seems to me, trying to impose new norms of consideration on a brutal sexual culture, without appealing to religious sanction or patriarchal chivalry.

“A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction,” tweeted the feminist writer Jessica Valenti. “But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

Maybe feminists feel free to express their fury about the path sexual liberation has taken because they no longer need to defend sexual liberation itself from conservatives. In the 1990s, porn culture seemed subversive and chic. Now it’s become repulsively presidential.

Trump White House Continues Lawyering up as Russia Investigation Unfolds

Is Marc Kasowitz not enough anymore?

.. Cobb is “intended to be

  • traffic cop,
  • enforcer of discipline, and
  • public spokesman” for the investigation,

according to Bloomberg News, working with Kasowitz and outside lawyers and leaving the rest of the White House counsel to focus on other things. (In the Trump administration, there are always other things).

.. Meanwhile, Jared Kushner is also in the midst of a legal shakeup, with the Times reporting that his attorney Jamie Gorelick will step away from advising him on anything related to Russia, though she’ll continue to advise him on other issues. With Kushner under fire for his own meetings with Russia, that leaves plenty for Gorelick’s successor, Abbe D. Lowell, to take on.