BY JOE CONASON
Some blessed day, America will be rid of the Trump Administration. But the “normalization” of misconduct by this president’s entourage will leave indelible stains – one of which will bear the name Jared Kushner.
Unlike his constantly blithering and blabbering father-in-law, Kushner usually goes about his self-serving business in the White House very quietly, hiring lawyers to spout his alibis. When he granted an interview the other day to Axios on HBO, the result was predictable. This epitome of nepotism demonstrated once again why he should hold no public position of trust.
Although Kushner was mocked for his evasions and denials when Axios correspondent Jonathan Swan asked him about Trump’s bigoted “birther” campaign and attacks on Muslims, that was a sideshow. Nobody can expect him to speak frankly about those topics, and his opinions about the president don’t matter anyway.
What he said about the Russian incursion into the 2016 election was far more troubling. He claimed that he never noticed the subject line on the email from Donald Trump Jr. that summoned him to the infamous Trump Tower meeting with the Russians – “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.” Worse still was Kushner’s retort when Swan asked what he would do if the Russians were to approach with offers of dirt on the Democrats in 2020.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”
Let’s be real: As the top officials in the U.S. intelligence community have pointed out many times, usually with hair on fire, there is nothing hypothetical about the Kremlin’s ongoing and aggressive meddling in our elections. There is no doubt that President Vladimir Putin prefers the malleable and amoral Trump to any possible alternative. And there is no reason to expect that Kushner would do anything differently from what the Trump gang did in 2016 and ever since. They will encourage the Russians and then cover up their alliance with America’s adversaries by lying, just as they did last time.
Kushner’s arrogant attitude is even more stunning because the House Oversight Committee has spent months investigating his security clearance. Letting him run around the White House and the world with access to classified materials seemed like a very bad idea before the Axios interview, owing to his conflicts of interest and dubious behavior. He routinely disrespects the most fundamental ethical and legal standards, as he did when he met in the White House with bankers who had loaned his family firm half a billion dollars.
He is also a target of intelligence operators from many countries, all of whom view the callow Kushner as a potential stooge, open to blandishments, flattery and offers of money. Intercepted conversations about targeting him made our own intelligence officials blanch with worry. So did his bumbling but ill-intentioned attempt to establish a “back channel” with Russian officials during the Trump transition.
Now he has informed us, on the record, that he just might not report a contact by meddling Russians to the FBI. He says he doesn’t know how he will respond when they show up again. This might be the simplest question any White House official has ever been asked, with the most obvious answer. And he got it dead wrong.
Perhaps someone should have told Kushner that reporting any such illicit offer by a foreign adversary to federal authorities is the minimum expected of any official holding a security clearance. Then again, he seems impervious to any understanding of the dubious activities that propelled his father-in-law into power. He recently mischaracterized the Russian Trump campaign as the purchase of “a few Facebook posts” and added that the special counsel investigation has done greater harm to American democracy.
Kushner’s own utterances disqualify him from any level of security clearance. If the United States were to have a government that valued national security, he would be fired from his unearned White House job, instructed to clean out his desk and escorted from the premises. It is yet another sign of how far we have fallen that he won’t be going anywhere.
– Joe Conason’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer