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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

First son-in-law wields clout near the two-year mark, for better or worse

White House adviser Jared Kushner seen on Aug.

White House adviser Jared Kushner seen on Aug. 29. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

By now, it seems clear that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are disposed to let anyone else's suspicions of potential conflicts between their private holdings and the White House simply wash over them.

As daughter and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, they exercise clout that has been reported to extend to domestic legislation, foreign affairs and even trade issues. 

The Associated Press reports this week that the couple stands to benefit from the so-called Opportunity Zone real estate program. She pushed for its creation in the White House. The program offers big tax breaks to developers in "economically distressed" communities.

Kushner holds a major stake in one investment firm that announced a series of Opportunity Zone funds that seek to build major projects. Together they have interest in "at least 13 properties held by Kushner's family firm that could qualify for the tax breaks," AP reports.

"Six of the Kushner Cos. buildings are in New York City's Brooklyn Heights area, with views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline, where a five-bedroom apartment recently listed for $8 million."

But it is in other areas that Kushner's special role has recently attracted greater public notice.

After Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi was killed, allegedly by government agents inside a Saudi Arabian embassy, a harsh glare fell on Kushner's cordial relationship with the kingdom's most powerful figure, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Senior American officials expressed worry about the implications of Kushner's chats with the prince both before and after the slaying, according to The New York Times. The concern was said to focus on Kushner's inexperience in foreign affairs and the possibility of his being manipulated as he seeks Mideast peace negotiations and other deals.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has reportedly complained that "Javanka," as they're sometimes known, were “playing government" outside the hierarchy of the Oval Office.

Now Kelly is on his way out of the job. The first couple is expected to sign off on any replacement, Politico reports. 

Some media admirers have given Kushner the thumbs-up sign on his government doings. This week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would let a criminal justice reform bill, purportedly drafted with input from Kushner, reach the chamber floor for a vote. Democrats favor such reform in principle, and a bipartisan alliance for it seemed to have formed before the presidential election in 2016.

Charlie Kirk, who runs Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit, wrote of Kushner in The Hill this week, saying that he is "the most underappreciated asset in the Trump White House," a skilled tactician.

"Together, we have lobbied lawmakers to support prison reform, something both Kushner and I are deeply passionate about," Kirk wrote. He also credits the first son-in-law with the nation's "successful bid to secure the FIFA World Cup in 2026 and Summer Olympics in 2028."

But the 37-year-old father of three of Trump's grandchildren won't have completely free reign going forward. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), as chairman-in-waiting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, could delve into Kushner's Saudi contacts as part of a broader review of U.S. policy in the Mideast, CNN reported.

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