Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to President Donald Trump, lost his top-level security clearance this week, putting in jeopardy a broad portfolio that includes peace in the Middle East and trade with China and Mexico.
What’s his future in the White House? And, given his marriage to President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, did he belong there at all?
On Point took up the subject Thursday with Politico’s Josh Gerstein, Claire Finkelstein of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law, and Shane Harris, a Washington Post reporter who helped break the story about other countries looking to leverage Kushner’s inexperience and business ties.
“Congress needs to start taking conflicts of interest and nepotism concerns much more seriously,” Finkelstein told guest host Ray Suarez, “and start legislating to control abuses in these areas.”
The New York Times also reported recently that Citigroup and private equity firm Apollo made large loans to Kushner’s family business after White House meetings.
Here are some more highlights from this show:
On the difficulties Kushner will face in doing his job now that his security clearance was downgraded:
Harris: “He’s working with other people in the White House and in other agencies who have top secret clearances when they're working on these projects. You literally can't be in the room discussing this information at the top secret level unless you have that clearance so unless everyone is prepared to essentially kind of downgrade the conversation when Jared's around he can't participate in those meetings.
On divesting from a broad (and highly leveraged) business empire:
Finkelstein: One ought to point out here that this is following the president's own example for failing to divest himself of his own financial holdings completely when he assumed office. And so if the president had set a different example I can only assume that Kushner would have felt under constraint to more fully divest himself from his family's holdings.
On financial disclosures and continuing business ties:
Gerstein: “There's also increasing indications from financial disclosures filed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner about the challenges that they're facing financially and that their debts may well be increasing.”
On the shifting — and perhaps broken — norms in the Trump White House:
Harris: “This is not the way things normally go. And it's not the way power is normally used. .. Why did this go on for as long as it did? Because the White House decided to allow it to go on. It's the White House's call to decide to award a clearance, as Claire points out. It's ultimately the president's behavior that sets an expectation for what is tolerable inside the White House.”
On another note: the departure of Hope Hicks as communications chief.
Gerstein: “I think the timing of it was something of a surprise, although there had been folks that had talked about different tensions in the White House between her and Chief of Staff (John) Kelly and different rival camps there in the White House, but certainly coming immediately the day after she gave testimony up on Capitol Hill, where she reportedly made comments that she had occasionally told white lies on behalf of the president, really did turn heads at the White House.”
Josh Gerstein, senior White House reporter for Politico. (@joshgerstein)
Shane Harris, intelligence and national security correspondent at the Washington Post. (@shaneharris)
Claire Finkelstein, director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.
From The Reading List:
Washington Post: 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, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter."
Jared Kushner's father-in-law Donald Trump has given him big assignments…making Mideast peace, managing the complex relationship with Mexico. To do that, you’ve got to see America’s secrets. Kushner has just lost his security clearance as questions rise about his private businesses and government duties. Also, Hope Hicks out as communications director. This hour, On Point: Secrets, and white lies. --Ray Suarez
This program aired on March 1, 2018.