- Tuesday featured an avalanche of negative developments for Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.
- Kushner’s security clearance got downgraded.
- He appeared to break the law.
- Foreign governments are reportedly trying to manipulate him.
- And his right-hand man announced he is leaving the White House.
Here was Jared Kushner’s Tuesday afternoon: He saw his security clearance get downgraded after months of pressure for the White House to pull his access to top-secret intelligence. He appeared to violate the campaign law known as the Hatch Act. He watched his right-hand man and press aide Josh Raffel announce his departure from the White House.
Here was his evening: The Washington Post reported foreign governments from at least four countries – the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico – privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner, a senior White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, through his business arrangements.
In what has been an often tumultuous tenure for Kushner in the White House, Tuesday was arguably his worst day yet.
Breaking the law?
Just after 11 a.m. on the East Coast, the Trump campaign sent an announcement about Brad Parscale taking the reins as Trump’s 2020 campaign manager. Kushner, who was integral to Trump’s 2016 campaign and worked closely with Parscale, was quoted as a “senior adviser and assistant to the president” discussing how crucial Parscale was to Trump’s initial campaign.
It didn’t take long for some campaign experts to notice that, by using his official White House title in the release, Kushner likely was in violation of the Hatch Act – a law that bars government employees from using their titles in political efforts. It’s a law that has repeatedly tripped up Trump officials.
Kushner’s title was quickly removed from the copy of the release posted to Trump’s campaign website.
“This appears to be a clear violation of the Hatch Act,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told Business Insider in an email. “White House officials are prohibited from using their official title for campaign purposes. Our lawyers are currently exploring potential legal action.”
Just before 7 p.m., CREW filed a formal Hatch Act complaint.
“The rules are clear that government officials aren’t allowed to use their positions for campaign activity,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “He may have a close relationship with the president, but the rules still apply to Jared Kushner.”
Soon after the Trump campaign promoted Kushner’s comment, news broke of Raffel’s imminent departure. Raffel worked very closely with Kushner and Ivanka Trump and was known as a top crisis manager for the administration. A White House official told Axios that “we call Josh” when there’s a crisis, adding that “he is always handling the worst stories.”
And it wasn’t long after that word spread that Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded and some of the worst stories emerged.
‘The first real rebuke Trump has faced for nepotism’
Kushner’s downgrade from “top-secret” to “secret” means he is no longer privy to items like the President’s Daily Brief, the top-secret intelligence report.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted that Kushner, “a valued member of the team,” will “continue to do the important work that he’s been doing since he started in the administration.”
Kushner holds a vast portfolio in the White House, including crafting White House policy related to China, Mexico, and Canada, as well as working on Middle East peace and US innovation. Some of those countries have discussed ways to manipulate him, focusing on his complex business arrangements and lack of foreign-policy experience, according to an Washington Post story that was published later Tuesday.
“What this means: Kushner will lose access to nearly all NSA reporting (i.e., intercepted communications, among other elements),” tweeted Ned Price, a national security spokesperson for former President Barack Obama. “Whether or not he could’ve been successful before, he no longer can be an effective Middle East mediator.”
CNN reported that Kushner “steadfastly believes” White House chief of staff John Kelly “is using this as an opportunity to take out his frustration on him.”
Democrats who’ve sought to have Kushner’s security clearance stripped for months celebrated the news.
Kushner’s downgrade “gives the word ‘overdue’ new meaning,” Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told reporters.
Conservatives weighed in too. Amanda Carpenter, a CNN contributor who used to be senior communications adviser for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, noted that the significance of Kushner losing his clearance extends beyond him not being able to view certain intelligence anymore.
“Revocation of Kushner’s top security clearance is significant because it’s the first real rebuke Trump has faced for nepotism” in the White House, she tweeted.