One of the persistent and hilarious myths of the Trump administration—along with “He’s flailing around like a spastic toddler on purpose to distract you from Russia!”—has been the narrative of Jared Kushner: Machiavellian Trump Whisperer. It’s one of the few things Donald Trump and his critics seem able to agree upon: Young Jared knows the score.
When Trump seemed to sour on Steve Bannon, the story went, it was because the latter had lost an internal power struggle to Kushner. When single-use communications director and spiral-eyed maniac Anthony Scaramucci chased off chief of staff Reince Priebus, the story went, he was acting on behalf of Kushner. When Priebus’s replacement, John Kelly, immediately fired Scaramucci, the story went, it was because the latter had fulfilled his usefulness to Kushner, who found his preening vulgarity distasteful. The fact that Young Jared himself seems to be the anonymous source behind like 75 percent of the politics coverage of the Washington Post and New York Times certainly has not hampered the development of this flattering narrative.
In broad strokes, this is a version of the story Trump’s supporters and opponents used to tell about Bannon, back before a string of clumsy, cartoonishly evil Bannon-ghostwritten executive orders bounced fruitlessly off the judiciary’s lower legs and revealed their author as an impotent melting pepperoni-and-cheese sculpture of Vigo the Carpathian. It was a horror story when its central character was the former Breitbart executive, whose life’s goal seems to be to convince the establishment media that he literally is Satan; it’s something slightly more comforting now that Kushner, a bland New York City aristocrat type generally thought to have blandly center-right technocrat politics, has supplanted him.
You can understand the appeal. After all, our doddering, senile, speed-addled dipshit president has entrusted Kushner with a package of official responsibilities—veterans’ affairs, Middle East peace, the opioid crisis, overhauling the technological infrastructure of the federal government, etc.—that, in aggregate, amount to Doing The Presidency; that the vessel of all this authority might be a coldblooded but essentially rational and competent operator would be reassuring not only for Trump’s supporters but for the many millions of people who voted for basically that exact same character description in Trump’s election opponent. If, as has turned out to be the case, Donald Trump will function as his own administration’s extremely wayward social media intern and little else, then maybe you could take some solace from the idea that there is an actual president in there somewhere, and that the actual president is, if nothing else, at least a familiarly vile stock national-politics type, and not, say, a hapless helium-brained inheritance doofus in whole entire light-years over his head, like Trump himself.
With all of this in mind—and considering that Kushner is, in New York media circles, legendarily stupid and incapable—I cannot recommend this very funny story, from Talking Points Memo’s Cameron Joseph, strongly enough. It concerns the time White House lawyers discovered Kushner owned a stake in his brother’s health insurance company—a company that not only depends upon Obamacare’s individual insurance markets for its very existence, but that had hired lobbyists to save the healthcare program while Kushner’s boss set about delivering on his promise to dismantle it. Whoops.
Jared Kushner did not list his holdings in Oscar Health Insurance on his personal financial disclosure form because he was not required to do so, as he included [Thrive Capital, his brother Joshua’s investment firm]. But that company’s ownership, through a company called Mulberry Health, Inc., was highlighted by the White House’s own attorneys as a reason he needed to divest in Thrive around the time President Trump was sworn into the White House.
“One major holding of multiple Thrive Capital funds is Oscar Health Insurance. Mr. Kushner’s continuing interest in Oscar could require his recusal from a variety of particular matters that will have a direct and predictable effect on the health insurance industry,” White House Deputy Counsel Stefan Passantino wrote to the Office of Government Ethics in a letter explaining what Kushner would sell to avoid potential conflicts of interest and why. That letter is dated Jan. 25, 2017, less than a week after Trump’s inauguration.
Wait, this part’s even better:
Jared Kushner seems to harbor similar views as his brother about Obamacare repeal. Sources confirm to TPM multiple outlets‘ reports that he was deeply skeptical of congressional Republicans’ push for Obamacare repeal from the start and called the push for the repeal a mistake — criticism that led Trump at one point to blow up at Jared Kushner and say he fully understood his position, according to Politico.
Jared Kushner’s involvement in the internal Obamacare debate included an early spring meeting he attended with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Trump, senior White House officials and House members, and Zeke Emanuel, the Democratic architect of Obamacare who Kushner played a role in bringing in to discuss the law with his father-in-law. A source in the room told TPM that Jared Kushner was vocally critical of the House Republicans’ plan for replacing the law during the meeting.
So, if I’m reading this correctly, somehow the net result of Kushner a) having uniquely privileged access to and influence over the president of the freaking United States, and b) opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and c) literally owning part of a company that was lobbying to preserve Obamacare was that the administration charged full-steam-ahead into the effort to destroy Obamacare and Kushner bailed on his business interests so that he could help make it happen. This does not seem to be the story of the 21st century American Rasputin! This seems to be the story of a cowed featherweight dingus who had to dump his own relatively modest ventures because his lunatic father-in-law saw that he knew how to record shows on the dang VCR and figured that qualified him to run the United States government.
Everything is awful. The country is imploding. At least I can enjoy Jared Kushner getting cucked by his wife’s dad.