CBS News has confirmed Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, discussed setting up back-channel communications between the Trump transition team and Russia during a December meeting. President Trump told the New York Times that he has “total confidence in him.”
But the negative stories surrounding Kushner the last week could impact his influence with the president.
Kushner is a constant presence alongside his father-in-law, wearing several hats as a family member with the ear of the president of the United States to a policy adviser who led a recent $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, reports CBS News correspondent Juliana Goldman.
“If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can,” Mr. Trump said to Kushner on the eve of his presidential inauguration.
The president has positioned Kushner as a senior adviser and tasked him with some of the most sensitive issues he wants to fast track. Kushner’s portfolio includes trying to secure Middle East peace to leading the White House office of “American innovation.”
His contacts with Russia are now making headlines, but he’s also been a main point of contact with other foreign officials in Mexico, China and Canada.
“Qualification number one, Trump trusts him,” New York Times reporter Sharon LaFraniere said.
She also said Kushner and his father-in-law are similar in a key way: “His experience has been a family business,” she said.
They value loyalty.
Kushner built his business with his own father, a relationship he discussed in a 2014 commencement address at Hofstra University in New York.
“A lot of what I’m going to speak about today are lessons that I learned from the best professor on how to get the most out of life, which is my dad,” Kushner said in his speech.
Ten years earlier, his father was arrested and later found guilty of tax evasion and witness tampering. Now that Kushner finds himself embroiled in an FBI investigation, LaFraniere said how he approaches those storms depends on who you ask.
“If he feels someone has crossed him, or treated him unfairly, he will be, friends would say, tough and his critics would say vindictive,” LaFraniere said.
For now it’s unclear how the FBI investigation will affect Kushner’s many roles at the White House. It’s undoubtedly a distraction, and some top Democrats are asking for his security clearance to be reviewed.