In what will come as music from above to Steve Bannon, as well as numerous Donald Trump supporters who just happen to have a less than soft spot for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the WSJ reports that “some” of the US President’s lawyers concluded earlier this summer that Jared Kushner should step down as senior White House adviser due to “possible legal complications” emerging from the ongoing Russia probe, and aired such concerns directly to the president, according to WSJ sources.
The problems involving Kushner are largely familiar: he was the adviser closest to the president who had the most dealings with Russian officials and businesspeople during the campaign and transition, many of which are currently the object of Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe – Kushner said he had four such meetings or interactions. Additionally Kushner initially omitted to disclose any contacts with foreign officials as required on a security clearance form. He only updated the form later on several occasions to include what he has said were more than 100 contacts with foreign officials.
That said, the Trump’s lawyers were not united in their condemnation of Kushner.
John Dowd, who first joined the legal team in June and now heads it, said in an interview Monday that “to my knowledge” the proposal wasn’t taken to Mr. Trump. Mr. Dowd also said he did not side with some of his colleagues who believed Mr. Kushner needed to go.
“I didn’t agree with that view at all. I thought it was absurd,” Mr. Dowd said. “I made my views known.” He called Mr. Kushner “absolutely terrific” and “a great asset, real gentleman, a pleasure to work with.”
Yet despite the reticence of the pro-Kushner camp, the process appears to have been rather involved. By June, some members of the legal team aired their concerns to Mr. Trump including in at least one meeting in the White House. At this time, press aides to the legal team began to prepare for the possibility that Mr. Kushner would step down, “drafting a statement explaining his departure.”
The one person whose opinion matters the most, however, was not convinced:
“Trump wasn’t persuaded that Mr. Kushner needed to leave. One person said Mr. Trump’s view was that Mr. Kushner hadn’t done anything wrong and that there was no need for him to step down.“
The current fate of the Kush-lash is unclear, further complicated by the recent transitions inside Trump’s legal team itself which underwent a major overhaul in July.
The legal team has been reshuffled since it was first assembled in late May, after the Justice Department appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to oversee the federal probe of Russian interference in the U.S. election. In mid-July, Mr. Dowd took over leadership of the team from Marc Kasowitz, Mr. Trump’s longtime attorney.
Mr. Kasowitz in a statement said: “I never discussed with other lawyers for the President that Jared Kushner should step down from his position at the White House, I never recommended to the President that Mr. Kushner should step down from that position and I am not aware that any other lawyers for the President made any such recommendation either.”
For his part, while Kushner has repeatedly denied any links to Russia, writing in a July statement that “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” some of Mr. Trump’s attorneys worried that “Mr. Kushner’s continued employment carried risks that could possibly involve other White House officials.”
Events hit a crescendo on July 8, when news broke of the previously undisclosed June 2016 meeting that involved a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, Kushner and Donald Trump Jr.
Anticipating that the meeting would become public, members of the legal team in June already had developed talking points to manage the political fallout—including a statement that would explain a potential Kushner resignation. The statement on behalf of Mr. Kushner expressed regret that the political environment had become so toxic that what he viewed as a standard meeting was becoming a weapon for Mr. Trump’s critics, according to two people familiar with the documents
But, as events have since revealed, those talking points were never used, at least not yet, especially since they would prompt even more questions whether Kushner is departing as he is hiding something.
That said, now that this major media “trial balloon” has been leaked and the public has been duly put on notice, it is hardly inconceivable to assume that as Trump considers who to dump next ahead of the oncoming Mueller juggernaut, his own son-in-law may be next in the firing line. And should Jared be exit stage left, followed promptly by Ivanka, virtually nobody from Trump’s original team will be left standing, aside from Trump that is… and all the ex-Goldman guys of course.