FAMILY MATTERS

Team Trump Rallies Around ‘Made Man’ Jared Kushner as Tensions Mount

Senior administration officials have either refused to comment on the latest Kushner-related reporting, or have made excuses for the young senior adviser-slash-son-in-law.

The response over the weekend from the Trump White House to the ongoing Kushner-Russia affair is so simple that even the president has so far been able to stay on message.

As of Sunday morning, the predictable view from the Trump administration is that Jared Kushner—President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his senior adviser—did absolutely nothing wrong, and that all the news you’ve been seeing is abominably “fake.”

“It is my opinion that many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media,” @realDonaldTrump posted in a string of Sunday-morning tweets. “Whenever you see the words 'sources say' in the fake news media, and they don't mention names it is very possible that those sources don't exist but are made up by fake news writers. #FakeNews is the enemy!”

The president had recently returned stateside after his high-profile foreign trip, returning to a domestic political environment dominated by largely negative press, including reports from Friday that his son-in-law had engaged in previously undisclosed communications with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. This reportedly included an attempt to set up a secret communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin.

Since Friday, senior administration brass has either refused to comment on the latest Kushner-related reporting, or have made excuses for the young senior adviser.

“Any information flow into the government and then considered by the government, I won’t criticize that,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday morning. “All of these lines of communication are a positive thing, in my opinion.”

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster similarly shrugged it off, insisting that such backchannels are “normal” and that none of this fazed him.

(Many experts have argued that this reported action was not at all normal.)

Multiple White House sources told The Daily Beast this weekend that Trump’s aides and advisers in the West Wing—even those who are “very annoyed,” as one official described it, with Kushner for what they see as another shambling, self-inflicted wound—are prepared to rally around the the senior adviser, at least publicly.

"He's a made man," one senior administration official said, referring to the fact that Kushner familial bond to Trump makes him virtually untouchable in a White House plagued by infighting and chronic job insecurity. "[Jared] is not going anywhere [and] it doesn't matter what regrettable mistakes he's made."

Other members of Trump’s senior staff have come under heavy fire before, including chief strategist (and Kushner’s ideological rival) Steve Bannon, and have so far managed to weather the storm. This hasn’t stopped some in President Trump’s inner circle from privately wondering if Kushner should at least take a break from the drama in Washington, however—especially as he’s receiving scrutiny from the FBI.

It’s a whirlwind of controversy and tension that Kushner’s friends claim is taking a noticeable toll on one of Trump’s favorite advisers. Two associates who said they spoke to Kushner in recent weeks told Politico that he seemed “miserable” and “unhappy” working in his father-in-law’s dysfunctional, often needlessly chaotic White House.

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And as Kushner returns to work this week, he will continue helping to develop a new White House “war room” and crisis-management shop, which is set to be exclusively dedicated to fighting the Trump-Russia fallout and the ongoing scandals consuming the administration. This project has recently been spearheaded by Bannon, Kushner, and chief of staff Reince Priebus.

It’s just that right now Kushner is every bit as much a part of the crisis as he is the management.