Kristof and Bruni

In “Jared Kushner’s Got Too Many Secrets to Keep Ours” Mr. Kristof says the president’s son-in-law is a security risk and shouldn’t be a senior White House adviser.  Mr. Bruni also discusses Kusher in “Jared Kushner, the Prince of Having it Both Ways.”  He says Kushner throws his weight around. Then floats above it all. But gravity has a way of catching up.  Here’s Mr. Kristof:

For all that we don’t know about President Trump’s dealings with Russia, one thing should now be clear: Jared Kushner should not be working in the White House, and he should not have a security clearance.

True, no proof has been presented that Kushner broke the law or plotted with Russia to interfere in the U.S. election. But he’s under investigation, and a series of revelations have bolstered suspicions — and credible doubts mean that he must be viewed as a security risk.

Here’s the bottom line: Kushner attended a meeting in June 2016 whose stated purpose was to advance a Kremlin initiative to interfere in the U.S. election; he failed to disclose the meeting on government forms (a felony if intentional); he was apparently complicit in a cover-up in which the Trump team denied at least 20 times that there had been any contacts with Russians to influence the election; and he also sought to set up a secret communications channel with the Kremlin during the presidential transition.

Until the situation is clarified, such a person simply should not work in the White House and have access to America’s most important secrets.

Kushner is set to be interviewed Monday in a closed session with the Senate Intelligence Committee, his first meeting with congressional investigators. I hope they grill him in particular about the attempt to set up a secret communications channel and whether it involved mobile Russian scrambling devices.

Similar issues arise with Ivanka Trump. The SF-86 form to get a national security clearance requires inclusion of a spouse’s foreign contacts, so the question arises: Did Ivanka Trump list the Russians whom Kushner spoke with? If they were intentionally omitted, then that, too, is a felony.

Look, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump may well be innocent of wrongdoing, and in general I agree with them much more than I do with, say, Steve Bannon. I suspect that the couple are a moderating influence on the administration, and I believe that some of the derision toward Ivanka has a sexist taint that would arouse more outrage if a liberal were the target.

All that acknowledged, it’s still untenable for someone to remain as a senior White House official with continued access to secrets while under federal investigation for possible ties to the Kremlin.

The Washington Post reported in May that Kushner is a focus of a federal inquiry, and McClatchy has reported that investigators are looking into whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation, which Kushner oversaw, colluded with Russians on Moscow’s efforts to spread fake news about Hillary Clinton. The cloud is so great that even some Republicans are calling for Kushner to be ousted from the White House.

“It would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House, not only Donald Trump but also Ivanka and Jared Kushner,” Representative Bill Flores, a Texas Republican, told a television interviewer.

Increasingly, the national security world fears that there is something substantive to the suspicions about the president and Russia. Otherwise, nothing makes sense.

Why has Trump persistently stood with Vladimir Putin rather than with allies like Germany or Britain? Why did Trump make a beeline for Putin at the G-20 dinner, without an aide, as opposed to chat with Angela Merkel or Theresa May? Why do so many Trump team members have ties to Russia? Why did Trump choose a campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who had been as much as $17 million in debt to pro-Russian interests and was vulnerable to Moscow pressure?

Why the unending pattern of secrecy and duplicity about Russia contacts?

Trump’s defensiveness on Russian ties is creepy. Why did he take the political risk of firing Jim Comey? Why is he so furious at Jeff Sessions for recusing himself? Why does he apparently contemplate the extreme step of firing Bob Mueller during his investigation into the Russia ties?

If the Trump team is innocent and expects exoneration, why would it work so hard on a secret effort aimed at discrediting Mueller, as The Times reported? Why would Trump be exploring pardons for aides, family members and himself, as The Washington Post reported?

One thing you learn as a journalist is that when an official makes increasingly vehement protestations of innocence, you’re probably getting warm. So, listening to the protests from Trump, I’d say that Mueller is on to something.

What’s particularly debilitating is the way the news and scandals keep dribbling out, making a mockery of White House denials and the president’s credibility. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should stop trying to hide stuff.

No one should find any satisfaction in Trump’s difficulties, for this credibility crisis diminishes not just his own influence but also American soft power around the world. This isn’t a soap opera but a calamity for our country, affecting how others see us.

At least one leader of an American ally tells me that his government suspects that there was collusion with Moscow. I sympathize with our counterintelligence officials, who chase low-level leakers and spies even as they undoubtedly worry that their commander in chief may be subject to Kremlin leverage or blackmail.

There’s no good way to manage a president who is a potential security risk (other than the standard protocol that he not meet Russians without another U.S. official present, and Trump escaped that constraint in Hamburg, Germany). But at least we can keep his son-in-law, while under investigation for possible felonies and collusion with Russia, from serving as a top White House official.

It’s time for Jared Kushner to find another job.

Now here’s Mr. Bruni:

On Monday, Jared Kushner is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, but not so that we can listen. Not so that we can watch. It’s a closed-door affair, meaning that unlike Jeff Sessions, Kushner gets to dance in the dark.

How fitting. We always see his fingerprints but never hear his voice. He throws his weight around, then floats above it all. No wonder the president’s lawyers and various White House aides and advisers are fed up with him. He’s there but not there: a meddlesome ghost. A puff of smoke.

He got the emails about emissaries of a foreign adversary bearing dirt, but — what do you know? — read right over the subject line that said “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.” No flashing lights in those proper nouns. No blaring sirens in those particular adjectives.

He attended the Trump Tower meeting, but stayed for only 10 minutes, a grace period that apparently doesn’t count. I guess it’s like canceling the on-demand movie rental shortly after the opening credits roll. No fee. No foul.

He failed to inform the F.B.I. about dozens of meetings with foreign officials during the campaign and the transition, but that was ostensibly a harmless oops. Someone prematurely hit “send.” Happens with Amazon orders. Can happen just as easily with an application for the highest level of security clearance.

And so what if he had to update that form multiple times? He’s new to all of this government gobbledygook. Not so new that he can’t reinvent the government, broker peace in the Middle East, spearhead our negotiations with countries elsewhere in the world, make headway against the opioid epidemic, reform the criminal justice system and still carve out time to tackle the slopes of Aspen with Ivanka and the kids. But paperwork? Be reasonable. He’s Superman. He’s not Ant-Man, the Green Hornet and the Green Lantern, too.

Too bad, because he’s in way over his faintly tousled hair, and that becomes clearer and clearer as the probes into the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia intensify.

His actions are under scrutiny. Why was he trying to set up a private back channel for communications with Russia? Did he furnish Russian players with the fruits of the campaign data operation that he supervised? Have his business interests profited from his proximity to the president? CNN reported on Friday that Chinese-language promotions for a New Jersey real estate development by Kushner Companies specifically mention that “the celebrity of the family is 30-something ‘Mr. Perfect’ Jared Kushner.”

Mr. Perfect indeed. Perfectly opportunistic. Perfectly armored in the rosiest self-regard. And perfectly reflective of his father-in-law in those ways and a few others.

He and the president once ran family businesses and now run the White House like one, with a narrowly drawn circle of trust and a suspiciousness of — and chilliness toward — those outside it. Note that Sean Spicer’s resignation came little more than a week after reports that Kushner was in a lather about press aides not devising more forceful and creative ways to answer negative coverage of the Russian meeting. And rest assured that Spicer’s departure won’t be the last.

Kushner and the president blithely straddle irreconcilable contradictions to get what they want. But in Kushner’s case — in Ivanka Trump’s, too — that has been an especially perverse spectacle. He and she are the prince and princess of having it both ways.

They expect our gratitude for their supposed (and only occasionally successful) efforts to tame Trump. But they’re also the ones who worked so mightily to put him in a position where, untamed, he can do such damage. It’s as if they deliberately shattered a glass, grabbed a broom and then solicited applause for their sweeping.

They cover for the president still. Smack in the middle of his cockamamie interview with The Times last week, Ivanka dropped by the Oval Office so that her daughter, Arabella, could give Grandpa a kiss. How precious. How humanizing. How entirely choreographed.

Grandpa spent the duration of his campaign mocking the establishment swells who migrate to enclaves like Davos, Switzerland, and Sun Valley, Idaho, for high-altitude, highfalutin conferences on the conundrums of modern life. That didn’t stop Kushner and Ivanka from joining those very swells in Sun Valley a week and a half ago for precisely such a symposium-on-the-slopes.

I’m told that their presence had a dampening effect on formal panels and informal conversations — how do you take issue with Trump when there’s family listening in? — and that a few glares came their way. I wonder if they even noticed.

They’re outsiders when that’s politically advantageous, insiders as soon as the canapés come around. Not long before Sun Valley they swanned up to the Hamptons for a party at the home of the Washington Post pooh-bah Lally Weymouth. There, in one of the global elite’s premier beachheads, they chatted radiantly with Democrats, whom Trump demonizes, and members of the news media, which Trump has cast as an enemy of the American people.

It’s an elaborate moral jujitsu they perform. There’s one constant — their self-advancement and self-preservation — but Kushner may be overplaying his hand.

His counsel to Trump has been flawed, to say the least. He reportedlylobbied for the firing of James Comey, which didn’t turn out so well. Maybe the hiring of Anthony Scaramucci as the new White House communications director — a move blessed by Kushner, over the objections of Reince Priebus, the chief of staff — will prove wiser. I have my doubts.

Cast as one of the president’s most dependable assets, Kushner could in fact be a significant liability, someone whose escapades — by turns grabby and cavalier — give investigators and detractors a whole extra sandbox of improprieties to rummage through.

I hear that he feels persecuted. Wronged. In that regard, too, he’s like his father-in-law, though Trump wears his self-pity, fury and ruthlessness right out front, for the whole world to see. Kushner puts a pale mask of calm and courteousness over his.

Maybe the senators who question him on Monday will pry it off. Maybe they’ll actually bring some color to his face. We won’t be able to witness what happens. But we’ll find out.

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