First son-in-law (and White House senior adviser) Jared Kushner sat down with Axios in a contentious interview that ran Sunday night on HBO.
I got my hands on the transcript and pulled out the most important/memorable/intriguing lines. They’re below.
1. “The first couple of years, politics was a newer thing for me. We got involved in the campaign. The President asked me to get involved.”
There are two interesting things here. One, Kushner is talking in the papal plural about himself (unless the “we” refers to he and his wife Ivanka Trump.) Two, Trump asked him to be involved in the presidential campaign – not the other way around.
2. “He respects people who are willing to be honest with him.”
This is a patently false statement about Trump by Kushner. Time and time again over his first few years in office, we’ve seen Trump move advisers and Cabinet officials out who disagree with him on almost anything. The more accurate way to express Trump’s approach to truth and straight talk is this: He respects people who tell him what he wants to hear.
3. “Again, I was not the person who was elected.”
Axios’s Jonathan Swan asks Kushner here whether he agrees with Trump on abortion. And Kushner’s answer, in case you are dense, is that he does not.
4. “Things turned in a, in a direction that was unfortunate, and I have a lot of respect for how my father handled himself after.”
Charles Kushner was jailed for tax fraud – and for a revenge plot against his brother-in-law. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who prosecuted the elder Kushner during his time as a US attorney, called it “one of the most loathsome, disgusting crimes that I prosecuted.”
5. “The President wouldn’t have been able to get me to work on his campaign had it not been for familial relations and I guess because I’m related to him, people will make that accusation one way or the other.”
Oh, so Trump had to “get” Kushner to work on his campaign, eh? Is the President aware of this fact?
6. “I think, look, the world right now is in, uh, we inherited a, a crazy world.”
Kushner had just told Swan the powerful story of his parents coming to the United States as refugees. Swan noted that the Trump White House had drastically reduced the number of refugees coming into the US. “Crazy world,” indeed!
7. “I think that we’re doing our best to try to make as much impact to allow refugees to be able to go back to their places, end conflicts in places like Syria and find ways to make sure that you’re funding these situations.”
This answer is Kushner’s spin on why the Trump administration’s refugee policy isn’t as bad as it looks – because they are working to end conflicts around the world that produce refugees. No more conflicts, no more refugees. Or something.
8. “No, it’s not something that, that I would ever think about doing.”
Kushner won’t be running for office in his own right. Of course, this is not a Sherman-esque denial, so….
9. “All human beings have the right to live in a way that gives them the opportunity to live in peace and to live harmoniously with each other.”
This is Kushner’s answer to this question from Swan: “Do you believe the Jewish people have a God-given right to what the Israeli government calls Judea and Samaria and what others call the West Bank?” If you look up “bland non-statement” in a dictionary, what Kushner said is what you get.
10. “You can blame all different types of things, but I do think that they should have self-determination.”
This seems to me to be an important assertion about the Palestinians from the man in the Trump White House charged with bringing (or trying to bring) peace to the Middle East.
11. “One thing about the way I’ve conducted myself is not a lot of people know who I’ve been talking to and what I’ve been talking about and that protects people.”
Shorter Kushner: I talk to people. Lots of people. You don’t know them. But I talk to them.
12. “Uh when there are things that they don’t do that we do not approve of, we we talk about that with them privately, but we feel like we’re in a position now where there’s a lot of interest that we have that are shared with them.”
Swan repeatedly asked Kushner about his relationship with Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, given that we now know MBS directed the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Kushner’s answer here is instructive: He doesn’t get into any specifics about MBS’s role in the Khashoggi murder and then suggests this sort of thing is best handled privately. Which, I – and many journalists (and human beings) – would disagree with.
13. “The people who need to know about them in our government um that are, that it’s related to the jobs that they’re doing, they know about those discussions, but again, those discussions stay private…”
Shorter Kushner on conversations he has had with MBS about the Khashoggi killing: That information is given out on a need-to-know basis, and right now you don’t need to know.
14. “It’s a horrific thing that happened, and what we’ve done is we’ve called for full transparency.”
This is Kushner’s reply on whether the Saudis should return Khashoggi’s body for a proper burial. And, no, this isn’t a “yes.”
15. “Look, I would not have come into government had there been anything salacious and nefarious that I was worried about.”
16. “At this point I have been fully vetted and I think people see this way.”
17. “Jonathan, we’re in a place now where people are playing Monday morning quarterback and they’re being so self-righteous.”
Oh, Jared, we’ve been in that place for a long time. I’d like to introduce you to my Twitter replies.
18. “Let me put you in my shoes at that time. OK, I’m running three companies, I’m helping run the campaign.”
19. “It’s a, it’s a clown show.”
That’s Kushner’s take on the famous/infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. Relatedly: “That’s a clown question, bro.” – Bryce Harper.
20. “The email that I got on my iPhone at the time basically said show up at 4. I didn’t scroll down, I never would’ve thought about that email.”
Same, my dude. Same.
21. “When I came into government I gave my extensive financial holdings.”
22. “Look, I was successful as a businessperson.”
“The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” – Donald J. Trump
23. “Then I got an ethics agreement. I followed everything to the ‘T’, OK, and there’s been no complaints anywhere internally that I haven’t done that.”
24. “Um look, I wasn’t really involved in that.”
Swan asked Kushner whether Trump’s promotion of a disproven conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States was racist. Jared, uh, wasn’t “involved in that,” so …
25. “Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.”
The birtherism … that wasn’t, like, really a “Jared thing”…
26. “Uh, like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.”
So, two things on that whole birtherism thing that Jared wasn’t involved in: 1) He wasn’t really involved in it 2) 2016 was a “long time ago.”
27. “Look, I think that the President did his campaign the way he did his campaign.”
FACT CHECK: True!
28. “What this President did is he represented an outsider who came in, brought in a ton of people who never would’ve been in Washington before who were not ‘qualified’ by conventional standards, and he’s brought in a ton of people that have brought great results to this country both economically and from a national security point of view.”
The crown jewel of Trump’s much-touted (by himself) ability to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise serve in Washington was Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. Yes, the same Rex Tillerson that Trump said was “dumb as a rock” and “totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State” in a tweet last month. Good times!
29. “You may not like the way he says it, and you may not like his solution for it, but these things are broken and they need debate and they need people trying to solve these problems. And this President is working every day to try and solve these problems.”
If Trump is looking for his best possible campaign message, this is it. Seriously.