The Twilight of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

The couple have lost their luster and influence during the past year, stalked by legal issues and weakened by the president’s disruptive decisions.

They were the couple of the hour. Rich businesspeople in their 30s who had constant access to the president of the United States. Ubiquitous and powerful. It was said that they pulled a lot of strings in the back room of the White House and that they were a moderating influence. One year later, the halo surrounding Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner is fading. Donald Trump’s daughter and his son-in-law, both advisers to the White House and with no previous political experience, have lost some of their pull during the second year of the presidency, stalked by legal issues and weakened by the leader’s turn toward disruptive positions.

This twilight was symbolically displayed last Monday. Ivanka and Jared traveled to Jerusalem to take part in the inauguration ceremony of the new American Embassy. An uncomfortable duality took place: Almost at the same time as the American delegation was celebrating the relocation of the Tel Aviv diplomatic office, Israeli forces killed dozens of demonstrators who were protesting against the decisions in Gaza. Ivanka’s wide smile during the inauguration has been strongly criticized in the U.S. The tension also highlighted Kushner’s failure, as he had been in charge of Israeli and Palestinian relations. His main task is to promote a peace plan that has never been revealed and which now seems impossible, given the Palestinian indignation toward the embassy move.

A year ago, Ivanka and Jared, who are practicing Jews, had already visited Jerusalem. They joined Trump on his first tour abroad as president. One analysis in the Israeli paper Haaretz this week recalled the way in which some described the Republican president’s daughter back then as the “most powerful Jewish woman” in the U.S. That visit, which included a trip to the West Bank, was thoroughly organized by Kushner, whom Trump showered with praise. The day before taking office in January 2017, he was confident that his son-in-law would do a “great job” in accomplishing what nobody has ever achieved: a sustained peace agreement in the world’s most volatile region.

Today, those words generate derision. “The president has realized he can only do so much. Kushner is not the panacea and is not going to bring about a solution,” says George C. Edwards III, a distinguished political science professor at Texas A&M University, by telephone. He considers it a “ridiculous notion” to believe that Kushner, who lacks international experience, could solve one of the world’s greatest hieroglyphs because of his family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.*

At the start of Trump’s presidency, Kushner’s portfolio was infinite. Aside from handling the Middle East, he launched a technological innovation initiative and another which concerned the prison system, and oversaw the relationship with Mexico. One year later, Kushner remains officially involved in those assignments, but his power, which appeared to be vast, has been narrowed down.

This is primarily due to the June 2917 appointment of John Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff, an appointment which raised barriers around the president. Secondly, Kushner’s reduced influence is due to the withdrawal of Kushner’s maximum security clearance last February as a result of numerous mistakes in the information supplied to the FBI about his financial and international contacts. According to expert Edwards, it is telling that Trump has done nothing to try to recover that protection for his son-in-law, which could prove that he has distanced himself from him.**

Up until that moment, Kushner’s undisclosed meetings with Russian characters during the election campaign had earned him an investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel analyzing Moscow’s interference in the presidential election. However, with the loss of his security clearance, he has been sidelined. He no longer has access to the daily briefing in which the president is informed of the world’s major security risks. Concurrently, information has surfaced about efforts by foreign countries to try to manipulate Kushner through his family’s real estate network.

Ivanka Trump does not have as many problems as her husband, but she is not trouble free. The FBI’s investigation of Michael Cohen, her father’s shady personal lawyer, threatens to rub off on her, because the attorney helped the family seal trade agreements overseas. As Trump’s adviser, Ivanka has mainly focused on issues related to the empowerment of women. She has achieved milestones, such as the creation of an international fund sponsored by the World Bank.

But that feminist struggle has also been eclipsed by her father’s controversies. Trump has openly endorsed people accused of sexual harassment or abusing women, and his lawyer Cohen paid $130,000 in 2016 to porn actress Stormy Daniels so that she would refrain from talking publicly about an alleged sexual affair with the president in 2006.

Moreover, Ivanka and Jared are increasingly alone in the White House. Their influence as moderating voices started to fall apart when they failed to persuade Trump to remain in the Paris climate agreement, from which he withdrew the U.S. in June 2016. They did manage to dispose of Steve Bannon, the leader’s chief strategist, and an emblem of the radical right. However, little by little, almost all of their allies in the West Wing are gone, such as Gary Cohn, economic adviser, giving way to additional disruptive voices more in line with Trump’s instincts.

During his first weeks in office, Edwards says, the president was “very naive” about how the government worked and “didn’t know who to trust,” which is why he chose his daughter and son-in-law as his advisers, in turn, newcomers to politics. But harsh reality has gradually prevailed. Presidential experts “wouldn’t be surprised” if, after the November general election, Ivanka and Jared stopped working at the White House and settled for an amicable departure.* For the time being, however, there are reports that say the couple is searching for a new house to move to in Washington.

*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated from the original, could not be verified.

** Editor’s note: Jared Kushner’s permanent security clearance was restored on May 23, 2018.

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