It’s been a rough few news cycles for Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser.
First came the fact that he failed to obtain a permanent security clearance for more than a year, likely due to the many conflicts of interest between his current job and his family business. Then, his temporary clearance was bumped down a level by the White House chief of staff, meaning it’s near impossible for him to do his job. Next came a Washington Post report that several foreign governments aim to manipulate Kushner via those same business entanglements.
Finally, in the coup de grace, the New York Times reported Thursday that two companies gave loans to Kushner’s business after meeting with him in the White House. Oh, and his ties to a bunch of financial institutions are under investigation by New York’s banking regulator.
What is this guy doing in the administration, again?
From the very beginning, it’s been patently ridiculous that Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, have West Wing jobs at all. They have zero years of government experience between them, and their business careers largely consist of working for the companies their daddies started. And yet they’ve been tasked with international diplomacy, major economic policy initiatives and representing America on the world stage.
The whole thing is just bonkers.
For Kushner, in particular, the array of issues dumped onto his desk is so wide that it’s become a running Washington joke. The opioid crisis, Middle East peace and reinventing the government bureaucracy were all, at one time or another, farmed out to Jared; his sole qualification for handling negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians seems to be that the Israeli prime minister borrowed his bedroom once.
Cartoons on President Donald Trump
But if being unqualified should have kept Kushner and Ivanka Trump out of the White House, recent events make their continued presence totally untenable. Kushner never fully divorced himself from his family business before moving into the administration, and even if everything he’s done thus far has been on the up and up – a notion which strains credulity – the appearance that he is being bought and sold by international actors means he can’t keep his job.
Ivanka Trump, too, can’t keep her personal life and her administration role separate. During a recent interview, she was asked to comment on the many allegations of sexual assault and abuse leveled at Donald Trump. She responded that the question was “inappropriate” because she is the president’s daughter.
That would be a fair riposte were she not a White House adviser, but since she is, and one who works on loads of issues related to women in the workplace, the question is more than fair game. If she wants to be just the president’s daughter, she needs to get out of the West Wing.
Of course, the perception that Kushner (and therefore Ivanka Trump) is profiting off the presidency is perhaps more understandable given that the president himself is absolutely profiting off it. Trump has not only failed to sever himself from his business as he promised he would, but is making off with public funds via payments to his resorts and clubs. He is also profiting from various domestic groups and foreign interests making the prudent calculation that hosting their events at Trump businesses and staying in Trump hotels is a way to curry favor with the man himself.
Yes, Trump makes a lot of noise about supposedly donating those profits to various government agencies, but he doesn’t have the receipts, as they say. The whole administration is a stew of petty corruption and graft, and it rots from the head.
There’s little reason to think that Trump would ever fire his family members unless they pose a truly existential threat to his administration. But that doesn’t make it OK to have them there. Per former White House ethics czar Norm Eisen, Kushner has already broken conflict of interest rules. Even if he didn’t, the perception that he, and by extension the White House, are for sale to the highest bidder isn’t one that can be allowed to persist.
This whole thing isn’t normal, no matter how much it’s been normalized.