Trump, known for his unique way of dealing with things, has his own style in using talent, too, the most notable of which is how he doesn’t shy away from using family members in his administration. Faced with ridicule and charges of slander, President Trump, who values profit more than reputation, is still doing things his way.
On June 8, a new scene in the family play, “Father and Son, Inc.,” played out with fanfare. When the former head of the FBI, James Comey, testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he alleged that Trump asked him to be “loyal,” to not pursue Flynn’s “Russiagate,” involvement, and swore that Trump lied. Meanwhile, Trump’s son, sent 30 tweets contradicting Comey’s testimony in order to demonstrate that his father did not lie or obstruct justice, showing courage and selflessness when his father was in trouble.
During Comey’s testimony, Trump was uncharacteristically silent; he did not say anything for 40 hours. Whether this was planned or not, this round of son-acting-for-father undoubtedly reaffirmed Trump’s reliance on family.
Not long after Trump’s election to the presidency, Trump named his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as his special adviser. While the job title was vague, it was backed with his father-in-law’s power, and had real authority. According to the media, Kushner’s power in the Oval Office increased, and Kushner gradually became a key figure in Trump’s camp, often involved in major policy decisions and even referred to as the “shadow Secretary of State.”
In addition, on March 27, Trump established the White House Office of American Innovation to be led by Kushner. In America, this is a fresh name for a government agency with rather unusual functions. Trump, unhappy with how bloated and inefficient the government is, wanted to apply his business style of “under budget, ahead of schedule” to government. His son-in-law understood the directive, and claimed the government needed to function like a great American business. As soon as Kushner took over the office, he began to work with the business elite, including Bill Gates of Microsoft and Tim Cook of Apple, seemingly making ambitious plans.
Kushner is a smart and capable man, but he is only 36 years old and lacks political experience, so Trump has felt the need to establish the younger man’s authority. For example, during one meeting with cabinet members and Republican leaders at the White House, Trump joked that Kushner was more famous than he was these days and he felt jealous. One meeting attendee read between the lines and indicated to Kushner that this was a medal of honor. In April, when Steve Bannon was kicked off the White House National Security Council, most of the media believed this was a result of Bannon challenging and disagreeing with Kushner, and losing.
While Trump treats his son-in-law well, he adores his daughter, Ivanka, too. On March 29, he had Ivanka assume the position of assistant to the president, causing much controversy. When Ivanka realized the discontent, she issued a statement saying, “I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees.”
Despite Ivanka’s promise, the public was still unhappy. Germany’s minister for foreign affairs commented that adding a celebrity-like daughter to the governance of a country not only smacked of nepotism, it was also blending political and family business ties and would be unthinkable in Germany. He especially did not like how Ivanka was treated like “royalty” while visiting other countries.
Objectively speaking, Trump’s preference for using family, in addition to his personal reasons for doing so, is because he has steadily existed inside a hostile environment since his election until becoming president. He has felt ambushed, accused, deceived and betrayed, not to mention the fact there is constant noise about being impeached. All of this has come not only from the opposition party but from his own camp as well, and has led to his guardedness. And given his fear of trusting outsiders, it has led to his belief that only his family can be trusted. This may be biased and extreme, but it has also been borne out of resignation.
It may shock some people, but when Time Magazine published its list of 100 most influential people in the world last month, President Trump, his daughter, Ivanka, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were all included. Three people from the same family being on the list is unprecedented. It seems as if the way Americans think about and do things is still hard to predict.