By Sharon LaFraniere, Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker
New York Times
WASHINGTON – At a meeting of senior officials at the start of President Donald Trump's term, Reince Priebus, then White House chief of staff, posed a simple question to Jared Kushner: What Would it be from your new United States Office? Innovation?
Kushner ignored him, according to people familiar with the exchange. Given that he and his top lieutenants were paid little or nothing, Kushner asked, "What do you care?", He emphasized his point with an expletive.
"It's fine," replied Priebus. "You do what you want."
Few in the early days of the Trump administration dared to challenge Kushner's power to design his work or direct the White House leadership as he saw fit. But 10 months after he was given free rein to address everything from the obsolete technology of the federal government to peace in the Middle East, the stage of doing whatever he wants from the Kushner period is over.
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Kushner, the president's son-in-law and chief counselor, who had been at all the meetings and photographs, has recently disappeared from public view and, according to some colleagues, badumed a more limited role behind the scenes. It is still moving forward on a plan to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, an objective that has eluded presidents and diplomats for generations, and has been credited with focusing on the technological needs of the government. But it is no longer seen as the main presidential consortium with the unlimited portfolio.
The new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, has proved less permissive than his predecessor. A retired four-star general who has imposed more order in a chaotic White House since taking office in July, Kelly has made it clear that Kushner must fit within a chain of command. "Jared works for me," he told the badociates. According to three advisers to the president, Kelly has even discussed the possibility that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, leave the west wing before the end of the year.
Kelly disputed it in an interview on Friday. "Honestly, there was never a time when I contemplated getting rid of Jared and Ivanka," Kelly said. He also said that the Office of American Innovation, led by Kushner, had demonstrated its value, noting that he had recently sent some members of his team to Puerto Rico to report on the conditions on the island devastated by the hurricanes.
And in one sent by the White House, the president said Friday that he still trusted Kushner. "Jared is working very hard on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the last thing he would do would be to obstruct that possibility," Donald Trump said. "Jared has been very effective since the first days of the campaign and the same is true today, he understood the movement then and has been useful in implementing the agenda that the American people voted on since then."
Determine the place of anyone in Trump's orbit, of course, is a dangerous exercise. The president's affections are inconstant, and he tends to maintain open relationships even if they are tense. At one point, it is said that Trump is less dependent on Kushner, and the next consult with his son-in-law about Senate Roy Moore's career in Alabama to badess his possible reactions, according to a person familiar with the talks.
But even supporters of Kushner acknowledged that their role had evolved. In his opinion, that reflected his success, not failure. By helping to oust Priebus and Stephen Bannon, the chief strategist of the president and the biting nationalist supporter, they said, Kushner helped stabilize the White House, allowing him to focus on his own projects instead of feeling compelled to badyze so many different issues.
In the first months of the administration, Kushner normally spent five or six hours a day with the president in what his defenders described as defense, making sure others did not play the system by persuading Trump to make decisions without consulting others who had an interest in the problems. Now, under a less free system, Kushner and other badistants are expected to remain in their own lanes.
Critics have a less generous view. Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist, said the "magical powers" attributed to Kushner at first seemed to have vanished. "As long as Jared was seen and not heard, he could play the role of child wonder," he said. "But now it is no longer seen, and we can only wonder about the boy whose father-in-law placed the hope of unraveling the most difficult enigmas of public policy in the world, from peace in the Middle East to the reinvention of the government" in him .
Speculation about Kushner's role comes when the long shadow of the special lawyer's investigation obscures the White House. Investigators have asked witnesses about the role of Kushner's foreign policy during the campaign and the presidential transition, including his participation in a debate on a UN Security Council resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. , as reported by The Wall Street Journal. [19659007UnapersonafamiliarizadaconelinterrogatorioquepidiónoseridentificadaparadiscutirlainvestigacióndijoqueelasesorespecialRobertMuellerparecíaestarexplorandoelroldeKushnercomopartedesuexamendeMichaelFlynnquienseconvirtióenasesordeseguridadnacionaldeTrumpantesdeserexpulsadodespuésde24díasbadestardisponiblesobresuscontactosconelembajadordeRusiaKushneraúnnohasidoentrevistadoporelequipodeMuellerPreocupadoporquesusconversacionespudieronhabersidorecogidasenunaintervencióntelefónicaautorizadaporelgobiernooquizásporRusiaoChinaKushnersehavueltocadavezmáscautelosoacercadecómosecomunicainclusoconamigos
Scrutiny of Mueller overturned the initial hopes of Kushner, according to some colleagues Kushner expressed relief at the appointment of Mueller in May, baduming the prosecutor's investigation effectively freeze congressional investigations and therefore would free the White House to follow its legislative agenda.
For some, that suggested he did not understand, that he did not. Fully understand how the special attorney would examine each of the things he had done in business, during the transition and during the campaign. And the appearance of Mueller has not stopped the investigations of the Chamber or the Senate; Since then, Kushner has been interviewed by researchers from Congress.
Some friends said that Kushner and his wife sometimes got discouraged because of their brief careers in the White House and their small social circle that jumped at the chance to return to New York graciously. . At one point this fall, there was a scenario in which Ivanka Trump could replace Nikki Haley as an ambbadador in the United States if Haley replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Donald Trump aides said they never heard about this internally, and the latest bets now have Haley in place.)
Others in the couple's orbit, however, said that regardless of their frustrations, they have found more satisfaction in recent months. that Bannon is no longer inside the west wing fighting against them, and that they are more likely to remain in the foreseeable future. Kushner's father, Charles, has urged his son to endure, arguing that otherwise he will become the man of the White House's mistakes, according to someone in the circle of Jared Kushner.
"The role of Jared working for President Trump is as important as it was on Day 1, but now he does not have to worry about caring for others," said Jason Miller, a campaign adviser who stays close to the White House. . "His approach was always supposed to be the president's great image, long-term projects, and now Jared can work uninterruptedly."
New York is not exactly a problem-free zone for Kushner either. He would presumably re-direct his family's real estate empire, now struggling to save his jewel from the crown, a Manhattan skyscraper. The building at 666 Fifth Ave. is flooded with $ 1.2 billion in debt, and a key business partner recently stated that a redevelopment plan created by Kushner before joining the government is unworkable. Kushner came to the White House with an expansive portfolio. In addition to peace in the Middle East, he served as the president's intermediary with Mexico, China and the Arab world. He traveled to Iraq with a bulletproof vest over his blue jacket and button-down shirt. His high profile generated covers of magazines and nocturnal comic riffs. Even some within the western wing began to refer to him as "the secretary of state".
In the first months, Kushner negotiated a tense telephone call between Trump and the president of Mexico and arranged a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China that transformed his father-in-law's approach to Beijing. He organized Trump's first overseas trip with an opening stop in Saudi Arabia, where the president aligned himself with the Sunni Arabs who are facing Iran.
Kushner has taken a step back from the relationship with China. He joined Trump in Beijing this month, but did not accompany the president on his entire trip to Asia. He remains the key person in Saudi Arabia, where he recently visited and talked late into the night with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He is also working with the team renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and developing a plan to reform the re-entry to American society for prisoners.
But Kushner, new to the government, has found it confusing at times. And Priebus's initial question about the mandate of Kushner's innovation office was never completely resolved. Sometimes called by White House advisors "the Isle of Jared," it has remained a jumble of seemingly random projects, from tackling the opioid crisis and the country's infrastructure needs to trying to modernize the government's outdated computer systems. .
The corporate leaders were recruited to give input in round tables organized by Kushner. But last summer, some executives were tired of talking-for-that. They complained to Gary D. Cohn, the president's national economic adviser, who in turn told Kushner's aides not to call another listening session unless it had a compelling purpose and produced results.
Two councils of White House business leaders dissolved in August after an exodus of angry members over the president's failure to more violently condemn violence at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Other initiatives supported by Kushner have proven to be more fruitful. Congress appears to be about to create a $ 500 million fund to help agencies modernize outdated information technology systems, some of which are at least 40 years old.
With the support of Kushner, the Department of Veterans Affairs also developed a plan to erase a long-standing electronic gap between the medical records of service members and veterans that has impaired patient care for years.
But Kushner's pressure for technological advances is hampered by the lack of permanent officials to carry out policy changes at the agency level. The White House has not appointed the principal information officers for nine major agencies, including Defense, Finance and National Security. Even the federal information chief is just an interim officer, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy of the White House is largely a ghost town.
The innovation office provides political coverage and "a push from the top," said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit organization that badyzes government effectiveness. "But at the end of the day, what the White House does does not matter if it is not implemented in the agencies where the real action takes place."