Trump.45 is, of course, the official Ducker-in-Chief, and sets the standard for the rest of the clan to imitate, emulate and replicate.
First Son-in-Law Kushner, married to favorite First Daughter Ivanka, is trying mightily to carry on his adopted family’s honor and tradition. Tyro Jared, was on his first overseas trip that counts as a Federal employee this past week, started out all covered in star dust after he personally called for a price discount to sell $100 billion in lethal advanced arms to Saudi Arabia. A fitting foundation for a man of peace.
By all accounts, he was intimately involved in the planning of the first two days of the nine day Trump.45 sojourn to Saudi Arabia and then Israel. Kushner, despite his ambitious and wide ranging portfolio of Senior Advisor areas of responsibility was not seriously involved in those minor matters covered after Tuesday.
So, with no particular skin in the game on NATO, US-European bilateral relations, unauthorized U.S. leaks of closely British intelligence data from the Manchester bombing, dealing with the Paris Climate Accords, U.S. trade tensions with Germany, U.S. global anti-terrorism policy co-ordination, and other such mundane concerns, Kushner and wife Ivanka hung around the main group to attend a private audience with the Pope at the Vatican on Wednesday after the Israel bit was concluded, courtesy of her old man.
International travel on Air Force One being rather humdrum and tiresome to the vivacious, young jet setters, they decided to go on a real private tour of the Pantheon in Rome Wednesday afternoon, and head out for a pizza and wine at a local restaurant with a party of 12 that evening.
Kushner ducked the rest of the trip with the President, and the on-going slog staff work and planning to try and keep Trump.45 centered and on message., thereby skipping Belgium and NATO for two days, and then Italy for the G7 Annual Summit on Friday and Saturday.
Having ditched Air Force One, the Kushners then ducked out of Europe altogether the next morning to come home to a thunderously quiet reception in DC where the Russia & Trump Investigation is smoking, and Jared has got himself a front row hot seat as a subject, though not as yet a target of FBI and federal criminal and counterintelligence scrutiny.
Now that there is a Special Prosecutor, and Mueller has been officially cleared by Trump.45’s own Justice Department of flimsy ethics concerns fronted by Trump’s backwoods team to slow things down, the investigation will be persistent and thorough and intrusive and will occupy serious time and attention from Kushner and other subjects for months and likely years to come.
The first hint of subject pessimism may have surfaced on Saturday afternoon when someone “in the know” posited that Kushner had always intended to review his Washington work status every six months or so, to decide whether he should return to New York and his lovely, amazing business life. How very drolly convenient that we should be reminded of this uber convenient escape hatch to duck away from his Senior White House Advisor duties and investigation, at just this particular point in time.
However, merely exiting stage right if it comes to that in a few couple months will, sadly for Jared, not suspend, repair, or fix any problems he has with the Special Prosecutor. Trump.45’s proposed War Room on Russia may make things worse for the Young Kushner, but they certainly will not earn him a a free pass based on his voluntary geographic separation.
For the last two weeks, nearly every day some new PR horror has stepped all over Trump.45’s intended World Trip Home Run Tour nailing Russia with Kushner in the mix in screaming front page bombshell headlines, alternating fire from the New York Times and Washington Post, with the rest of the Fake News Brigade right behind them.
Trump.45 has been unable to dampen or squelch the rumble, despite his best but now more enfeebled efforts. It is almost as if his water hose is filled with gasoline, in fact. His position will not improve in the near future, as even the President has lawyered up during the last week. We know Kushner himself attended law school and has a law degree, but he never passed the bar so he can’t practice law. If he has an ounce of common sense, he should have already made his own personal arrangements for the $1,500 an hour type of legal help easily found in the Capitol area. Maybe he has, and the story hasn’t broken yet.
If not, now that Kushner is back in Washington, it would be the perfect time to get ahead of the nasty flood that is to come. If he is still dithering about plugging this gap, he is dumber than he looks. He has some pretty fair legal help on tap from Jamie Gorelick for his business conflict of interest and ethical issues as a nepotistic family member in the White House, getting paid by American taxpayers, but Kushner really needs a criminal defense attorney just for the Russia probes, and probably someone with more than pedestrian white collar crime defense credentials.
But that will play out as a slowly unfolding high stakes drama in the weeks and months to come.
This piece concerns his decision to duck out of the official entourage several days early to avoid the blast furnace hot interest in his deteriorating situation as the Presidents; party returns home this weekend. Trump’s other senior advisors still stuck on the trip, Gary Cohn (Chief Economic Advisor) and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster were left to take the heat with non-responses, no comments, and various dodges when all they desired to talk about the historic accomplishments of the magnificent Trump.45 whirlwind world tour bringing peace, harmony, and light to an initially skeptical audience of U.S.. European allies, now won over to the right side by Trump.45’s persuasive brilliance. As if.
I haven’t seem much from the usual Press Office and Communications bunch on this topic in the last day or two. You know the usual suspects; Spicer, Huckabee Sanders, Hicks, Scavino, and the lot. Maybe they have finally taken their hard won lessons to heart and hunkered down with their helmets firmly on waiting for the barrage to pass them by. The best thing for them is to stay mute on the subject and related matters which obviously enraagesTrump.45, so at least they don’t make things worse for themselves by trying to un-explain whatever garbled messages Trump.45 decides to blast out,
Right now, Trump.45 seems most fixed on declaring and validating the entire trip as a “Home Run, Wherever We Go’”
That might make a good new subsidiary campaign slogan for the Iowa Rally scheduled for next Thursday. Although we have just learned that the Rally, only scheduled for the first time Wednesday of this week (three days ago), has now been postponed due to an unforeseen conflict in Trump.45’s schedule, though there were no surrounding public calendar events previously listed, and no explanatory details were given to support such a featherweight dodge. Surely, Trump.45 fans everywhere will be disappointed to learn that the Home Run World Peace and Security Tour will have to be put off a bit. No doubt it is entirely Obama’s fault, or has something to do with so-called Federal judges in the Ninth Circuit; we just don’t know the exact details yet.
Anyway, Kushner’s come home early move is a pretty fair Trump-like duck of a potentially unpleasant travel experience for this weekend. Kushner is showing promise as a ducker executive trainee.
Let us not ignore that First Lady Melania has shown herself to be a quieter, but nonetheless potent First Lady Ducker on her own behalf when it suits. She largely ducked the campaign trail for more than a year, she has quite effectively mostly ducked White House First Lady roles. She has been most adept and appreciated around the globe for her colorful, multiple hand holding ducks away from Trump in Tel Aviv and Rome. The Wifely Ducks seen round the World. No captions needed, lingua franca. Ivanka has shown some, at least mild, ducker tendencies, but so far perhaps nothing really worthy of All-Star status
On his historic trip the Chief Yrump.45 ducked in no particular order:
- Two state solution for Israel and Palestinians in the Mideast
- NATO Article 5, after a staff promise to explicitly support it
- His solemn promise to not lecture to others (sorry that was only for Muslims in Saudi Arabia, not America’s European allies)
- Comment on the Paris Climate Accords
- An appropriate reference to the Prime Minister of Canada in a formal setting
- His vocal support of French election loser Le Pen before she went down in flames a couple weeks ago
- Any organized contact with U.S. press after self-announced historic Home Run foreign trip, breaking decades of practice
- The First Spouse of Luxembourg in the official White House photo caption (is Luxembourg really part of Europe, anyway?)
A glorious trip in his own legendary mind indeed just completed for Trump.45. So trump.45 is still the reigning Champ of Ducking versus young Kushner, vying for a place at the table.
Given the juicy climate awaiting the Trumpster on his return to the United States late Saturday (left golfless for two weekends running), he must be raring to go on organizing his powerful new War Room and Anti-Fake News Destruction ploy against failing media who treat him so unfairly and horribly every chance they get.
As for Jared, all things considered, maybe a sneak in the back door return to the U.S. to gird his loins wasn’t such a bad idea, at that.
There’s always next week to pull wonderful rabbits out of magical hats.
From the New York Times (May 27) on portions of Jared’s ever expanding problems, legal, perceptual, and political, along with his angst and frustration:
President Trump returned home on Saturday to confront a growing political and legal threat, as his top aides tried to contain the fallout from reports that his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is a focus of investigations into possible collusion between Russia and the president’s campaign and transition teams.
As Mr. Trump ended a nine-day overseas trip that aides considered the most successful stretch of his presidency, he returned to a crisis that had only grown in his absence. The White House canceled a presidential trip to Iowa in the coming days and was putting together a damage-control plan to expand the president’s legal team, reorganize his communications staff and wall off a scandal that has jeopardized his agenda and now threatens to engulf his family.
Mr. Trump’s private legal team, led by his New York lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, was preparing to meet in Washington to face new questions about contacts between Mr. Kushner and representatives of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Mr. Trump may meet with Mr. Kasowitz as early as Sunday, and aides have recruited a series of prominent Washington lawyers with experience in political investigations for Mr. Trump to interview in hopes that they might join the legal team.
Mr. Kushner, who organized the president’s Middle East stops at the start of the foreign trip, chose to return to Washington with several days to go and has been unusually subdued since then. But he has no plans to step down from his role as senior adviser or to reduce his duties, according to people close to him.
Still, there are signs that he is tiring of the nonstop combat and the damage to his reputation. He has told friends that he and his wife, Ivanka Trump, have made no long-term commitment to remain by Mr. Trump’s side, saying they would review every six months whether to return to private life in New York.
Mr. Kushner’s troubles are only one facet of the crisis. Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, and Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, also dropped off Mr. Trump’s trip early, in part to return to deal with the political furor over the Russia investigations and the president’s decision to fire James B. Comey as F.B.I. director.
The White House was trying to figure out how to respond to reports that Mr. Kushner had spoken in December with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, about establishing a secret channel between his father-in-law’s transition team and Moscow to discuss the war in Syria and other issues. The Washington Post first reported on the suggestion on Friday, and three people informed about it confirmed it to The New York Times.
The discussion took place at Trump Tower at a meeting that also included Michael T. Flynn, who served briefly as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser until being forced out when it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and others about a separate telephone conversation he had with Mr. Kislyak. It was unclear who first proposed the secret communications channel, but the idea was for Mr. Flynn to speak directly with a Russian military official. The channel was never set up.
As reports emerged about investigators’ focus on Mr. Kushner, he and Ms. Trump discussed the possibility of having Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, issue a statement denying that Mr. McGahn had been contacted by federal officials about Mr. Kushner. Mr. McGahn, who has been increasingly uneasy in his role since Mr. Trump ignored his advice to delay Mr. Comey’s dismissal, said he was not the person to write such a statement, suggesting that doing so would create a precedent requiring a response to each new report. Mr. Kushner’s private lawyer issued a statement instead.
Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner have complained privately about what he views as an unfair level of scrutiny of his actions. He has dismissed the attention on him as a reflection of his father-in-law’s unconventional approach to diplomacy and inexperience in government, rather than of anything nefarious he has done. People close to Mr. Kushner, who had lunch with Mr. Priebus on Friday and who projected an air of calm, were adamant that he was preparing for a long fight and not an exit from the White House.
The reports about Mr. Kushner dominated an end-of-trip briefing for reporters in Taormina, Italy, where Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the president’s national security adviser, and Gary D. Cohn, his top economic adviser, declined to comment specifically on Mr. Kushner but sought to play down the significance of the disclosures.
“We have back-channel communications with any number of countries,” General McMaster said. “So, generally speaking, about back-channel communications, what that allows you to do is to communicate in a discreet manner. It doesn’t predispose you to any kind of content in that conversation.”
He did not say whether he was comfortable with the idea of a private citizen, as Mr. Kushner was at the time, opening such a back channel.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Trump’s advisers were working to create a crisis-control communications operation within the White House to separate the Russia investigations and related scandals from the administration’s day-to-day themes and the work of governing, according to several people familiar with their plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to divulge the details of a still-evolving strategy.
The goal, these people said, is to give Mr. Trump more outlets for communicating his message in an unvarnished way, while curbing opportunities for aides to be confronted publicly with damaging developments or unflattering story lines.
White House aides were trying to assemble a powerhouse outside legal team that they hoped would include seasoned Washington lawyers of the stature of Paul D. Clement, Theodore Olson or Brendan Sullivan, and they planned to introduce some of them to Mr. Trump as soon as this weekend. More lawyers could also be hired onto the White House staff to help Mr. McGahn.
The approach is modeled on the war room used by President Bill Clinton during various inquiries, including one that led to his impeachment for lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Mr. Clinton retained a private legal team and established a separate office to handle questions about investigations, so that the White House could preserve the image of governing and keep its primary focus on the president’s broader message.
Aides are talking about bringing Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager, and David Bossie, his former deputy campaign manager, onto the White House staff to manage the war room.
Under the evolving scenario, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, would take a diminished public role, with daily on-camera briefings replaced by more limited interactions with journalists, while Mr. Trump would seize more opportunities to communicate directly with his core supporters through campaign rallies, social media appearances such as Facebook Live videos, and interviews with friendly news organizations.
The president, who has more than 30 million followers on Twitter, has been told by his lawyers to limit his posts. Each one, they argue privately, could be used as evidence in a legal case against him, and the president went through his entire overseas trip without posting a single incendiary message.
Among those most adamant about limiting Mr. Trump’s access to the news media was Mr. Kushner, who has been critical internally of the White House press operation and has sought to marginalize Mr. Spicer, whom he views as too undisciplined to control the president’s message. Mr. Kushner has also favored creating a rapid-response team to counter reports like the ones that emerged on Friday.
In a move that many in the West Wing viewed as emblematic of his attempt to wrest control of communications from Mr. Spicer and Mr. Priebus, Mr. Kushner displaced an operations official from the office across the hall from his own and installed his spokesman, Josh Raffel, in his place, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, who now run the family business, have grown frustrated by the lack of a solid support system or effective surrogate operation to combat the spate of negative reports, according to three people who have spoken with them. The sons spent time on Thursday at the Republican National Committee headquarters, which was first reported by The Post. They also previously had a discussion with at least one Republican operative about beefing up communications at the campaign committee.
Republican strategists said it was vital for Mr. Trump to focus on advancing a legislative agenda to show voters that the administration could deliver policy changes and allay lawmakers’ simmering fears that the president’s troubles could damage their re-election chances.
“What they need to do is crank up the legislative side of things and say, O.K., that’s going on, and Trump’s going to be Trump, but meanwhile, they’re actually working to get some kind of health care plan through the Senate, some kind of tax reform, and do what they promised they would,” said Rich Galen, a top adviser to Newt Gingrich when he was the House speaker during Mr. Clinton’s tenure.
Yet Mr. Trump’s push to revamp health care has faltered in Congress, and the White House has yet to present a detailed plan for his promised tax cuts.
Joel Johnson, who was a top adviser to Mr. Clinton, said the traditional options available to a besieged president returning from overseas would be delivering a major speech, shaking up his staff and getting out on the road. But he said it was unclear whether Mr. Trump could do any of those things effectively enough to recapture control of his narrative.
“You’re always looking for a reset button and how do we change the conversation,” Mr. Johnson said. “I wouldn’t want to be running the program down there right now. I don’t know where they go.”
Hard Times Comin’, People. Better Get Ready.