The frown prince
He’s been “unhappy” and “miserable” lately, associates of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner told Politico.
Trump’s son-in-law has even told friends that he isn’t necessarily in it for the long haul. He and Ivanka will be reviewing every six months whether to return to private life in New York, according to The New York Times.
It wasn’t easy being Kushner even before news broke that the Russia-probe investigators are curious about him. His father-in-law had already tasked him with brokering Middle East peace, reinventing how government operates and trying to get under control a White House wracked by infighting.
Now he’s under scrutiny by the FBI and faces questioning by congressional committees following revelations his contacts with Russians, including Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, were more extensive, as Reuters reported, than previously known.
They included, according to The Washington Post, a Trump Tower discussion with Kislyak by Kushner and Michael Flynn during the transition about creating an alternate communications channel using Russian-controlled facilities.
The White House has spun Kushner’s channel-surfing as an innocent effort to get a jump on policy exchanges. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on “Fox News Sunday” that “any channel of communication, back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing.”
So no big deal?
Questions had already arisen about Russian election meddling, Trump’s affinity with Vladimir Putin and possible collusion before the December Trump Tower meeting. That, for starters, raises questions about the clandestine contacts.
Flynn was fired as national security adviser for concealing details about another Kislyak encounter and is a central focus of the investigations. (Unlike Flynn, Kushner is willing to tell Congress about the Russia meetings, says his lawyer.)
Kushner failed to report the Kislyak meetings as required for his security clearance. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) called on “ABC’s This Week” for that clearance to be reviewed. “You have to ask, well, who are they hiding the conversations from?” Schiff said.
NBC News recalls Kushner also had a December talk with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, a Putin crony. The White House subsequently called it transition-related. But Gorkov’s company said it was a business meeting, noting Kushner’s role then as head of his cash-strapped family’s real estate company.
Back in the White House Sunday morning after his trip overseas, with the Kushner stories the latest twists in the Russia probe, Trump lashed out in a tweet storm, accused the media of making up sources and called leaks “fabricated lies.”
Trump wrote that it was “very possible” anonymous sources are made up. See David M. Schwartz’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: Threat levels
Not all intelligence secrets are spilling out in Washington, notes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Homeland Security’s Kelly, in an appearance Friday on “Fox and Friends,” said, “I was telling [Fox host] Steve [Doocy] on the way in here, if he knew what I knew about terrorism, he’d never leave the house in the morning,” Kelly said.
Does that mean an elevated threat or the old new normal? Kelly wasn’t clear.
“The good news for us in America is we have amazing people protecting us every day. But it can happen here almost any time,” he said.
Trump leaves sauer taste
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week’s meetings with European leaders and Trump, along with Britain’s coming exit from the European Union, showed Europe can no longer “completely depend” on long-standing allies.
“I experienced that in the last few days, and therefore I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands,” Merkel said at an event for her re-election campaign.
Trump clashed with Merkel and other allied leaders on trade, was lukewarm on NATO commitments and left open the possibility of withdrawing from the Paris climate change accords.
A more upbeat assessment of Trump’s European tour came in a Trump tweet: “Trip was a great success for America. Hard work but big results!”
Mano a mano, main à main
French President Emmanuel Macron said he made a deliberate decision to initiate a bone-crushing handshake with Trump, and it was “a moment of truth” to deny the U.S. president an upper hand.
“I don’t believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues I won’t let anything pass.” He added, “That’s how you ensure you are respected. You have to show you won’t make small concessions — not even symbolic ones.”
What else is happening
- Trump and his advisers are considering a retooling of his senior staff and the creation of a “war room” within the White House to deal with the Russia issue, The Washington Post reported.
- Two new profiles of Kushner — by Politico and The Washington Post — look at how he dealt with adversity and enemies in the New York real estate industry.
- Federal data shows the region encompassing Long Island and New York City has seen a 31% increase this year in arrests of immigrants sought for deportation, matching a national trend for the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, Newsday’s Víctor Manuel Ramos reports.
- Some Trump associates say there has been talk of removing Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and sending hin off to be ambassador to Greece, The Washington Post said.
- While scandals and chaos have pushed much of it into the background, the Trump administration is moving forward with deregulatory efforts that could reshape American life for decades, Politico reports.
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), on CNN’s “State of the Union,” suggested there should be a mute button on impeachment talk while the Russia investigations proceed. “I think we need to deal with this in a very sober way,” he said.