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Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser, has a growing list of responsibilities.
He set up Trump’s meeting this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He’s working on the U.S. relationships with China and with Mexico. He’s leading the efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He’s leading the White House Office of American Innovation, which is tackling federal bureaucracy, opioid addiction and veteran health care. And on Monday he traveled to Iraq with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Andrew Rice (@riceid), contributing editor at New York Magazine, about how Kushner became such an important and influential member of Trump’s inner circle.
On Kushner's background and expertise
"He's sort of the son-in-law without portfolio in the administration. He is an adviser to President Trump. He's said to be the last person that President Trump talks to before he makes very important decisions. Going into the administration, it was said that he would have free rein to intervene anywhere that the president saw fit. We're seeing evidence of that in the sheer diversity of things that he's gotten involved with just in the first couple months of the administration.
"He was a real estate developer. He inherited a real estate company from his father, who didn't die but actually went to federal prison for a rather baroque scandal. He was thrown into this position of great responsibility in the family company at a very young age in his early 20s. He also owned a newspaper called the New York Observer that covers the New York City elite. He was both a media baron and a real estate player. But really, not anyone who has any experience in policy, foreign policy or any of the big matters that he's now involved in."
"I think that Jared came into his own and became a truly integral part of the Trump world via the campaign. "Andrew Rice
On how he met Ivanka Trump
"They originally met — it's a classic New York tabloid elite meet-cute story. They were dating, but they broke up partly over religious concerns on Jared Kushner's family's part because they are quite Orthodox Jews. Eventually, they got back together. The matchmaker was Wendi Deng, the now ex-wife of Rupert Murdoch, who arranged for them to each independently invited to the Murdoch yacht, each not knowing that the other was going to be there. Rupert and Wendi Deng talked them into getting back together because they thought they were such a good couple."
On Kushner's relationship with Donald Trump
"I think that Jared came into his own and became a truly integral part of the Trump world via the campaign. He came in and was given smallish tasks to do by Trump. He, by all accounts, performed them well. As time went on, he became more and more of a power player within that campaign. He was instrumental in the removal of at least two campaign managers, Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort. That's just indicative of his growing influence within Trump's inner circle. What we've seen so far is that Donald Trump is somebody who values loyalty very highly and he values family loyalty much higher than any other form of loyalty. Kushner showed, if nothing else, that he's intensely loyal to Donald Trump."
On whether Kushner is a foreign policy hawk or dove
"The only area in which it's really truly possible to say definitively is Israel. He's very much in lockstep with Netanyahu. He's somebody who really supports the government of Israel right down the line. On other things — say for instance China and other matters — there is some evidence that Kushner is a less hardline figure than somebody like Steve Bannon, with whom he has had a cooperative relationship during the campaign. There have been reports that there's more tension between them now. But I think it's quite difficult to talk about a world view of Jared Kushner because really I think his world view is basically trying to put into action Donald Trump's policies or Donald Trump's ideology. He's really about fulfilling the Trump agenda such as it is, more than advancing any particular ideology."
On whether Kushner believes in the Trump agenda
"I think he's a true believer in Trump. I think the agenda is really whatever Trump happens to be enunciating at any given time. Jared would probably be perfectly comfortable if the president decided he wanted to tack back toward the center and do some things on infrastructure, which Jared is very much in favor of. If he were to try to do some things on education, tax reform — a relatively moderate tax reform that the Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs, who's quite close to Jared, has been advocating — I think that's where Jared's beliefs lie. But ultimately, I think he's going to do whatever Donald Trump wants."
This segment aired on April 5, 2017.