Prologue: This column ran in June in 2017. Today is Saturday, March 3, 2018. The lead editorial in The New York Times is “Jared Kushner Flames Out”. I could not resist posting this column again, giving the background and forecast of what seemed to lay in store for him. Nine months later, It appears to have come true.
The Greek legend of Daedalus and his son Icarus combines history with mythology. Daedalus was the architect who worked for King Minos on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. The ruins of the Minoan Palace at Knossos that he created include the Labyrinth, a deadly maze built for the King to imprison his enemies. The mythical monster, Minotaur, lived deep within the Labyrinth and killed all captured prisoners. King Minos became furious with Daedalus when he learned that the architect had advised Princess Ariadne to give Theseus the thread that allowed him to escape from the Labyrinth after he killed the Minotaur. King Minos had Daedalus and his son Icarus thrown deep into the Labyrinth after his betrayal.
Daedalus, who had created the maze, knew a way to emerge, but he also realized the shores of Crete were heavily guarded. They could neither run toward the sea nor sail to freedom. They had to fly into the air! He created gigantic wings from the branches of the osier tree connected with wax. Then, he taught Icarus how to fly, but warned him to keep away from the sun which would melt the wax , destroying the wings. Daedalus and Icarus did escape from the Labyrinth and flew into the sky, free. As they flew, young Icarus became excited with the thrill of flying and started flying higher and higher to salute the sun. Daedalus was unable to restrain him and soon Icarus saw his great wings melting. He fell into the sea and drowned. The Icarian Sea where he fell, was named after him and nearby is an island called Icaria. The mix of history and myth lives in the ruins at Knossos and the waters surrounding Crete.
Jared Kushner. Married to Ivanka Trump, President Trump’s daughter, Kushner and his wife have offices in the West Wing of the White House. He is a Special Adviser and she is an Assistant to the president. They both have walk-in privileges to the Oval Office. They are recognized as having unique relationships with Donald Trump as close trusted family members. They accompanied him on his first overseas trip which Kushner planned and organized. He has been given an extraordinary portfolio including the Israeli/Palestinian stalemate and reorganizing the federal government. Yet, Kushner has no experience in diplomacy, government or political activities. His former work years were as the owner and manager of the vast family real estate empire in New York and New Jersey
It is known that Kushner is not interested in becoming involved in the legislation planned for the Trump agenda. He does not make himself available for interviews with the press. In early June, he was featured on the cover of TIME magazine, with an in-depth article about his meetings with Russian diplomats and bankers during the transition and since the inauguration. He is tall, handsome, privileged and appears supremely confident as he emerges with his briefcase to enter the SUV waiting to whisk him to his next meeting in The White House. He does not answer questions reporters call out to him. He appears aloof as he keeps walking during those encounters.
Kushner and Ivanka have been absent at certain crucial times in the White House, as when President Trump told the audience in the Rose Garden — and the entire world –that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement signed by 195 nations. Kushner, Ivanka and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had tried to convince Donald Trump to honor our commitment as the country that led the entire global endeavor under Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. They lost the argument to Stephen Bannon, chief strategist, who has urged the president to withdraw ever since the campaign. Kushner and Bannon have been constantly at odds on policy, causing Trump to tell them to settle their differences.
After the Russian involvement in the 2016 election became a growing scandal and Robert Mueller, former Director of The F.B.I., was appointed as counsel to head an Investigation, Jared Kushner became a “person of interest” to the F.B.I. This was related to the fact that he had not listed his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on his security clearance form nor the meeting with the Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, with close ties to the Kremlin. It was reported in The Washington Post that when Jared Kushner met with Kislyak, known as their “master spy”, they discussed setting up a back channel with the Russians using Russian facilities. Trump had publicly admired President Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign, calling him a” strong leader”while President Obama was a “weak leader.” After our seventeen intelligence agencies agreed Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee during the campaign, Trump was not convinced this was accurate. He tweeted that “China or a 400 pound person sitting on a bed anywhere” could have hacked the DNC. It was clear he wanted to have a reset with Russia once he became president. He did not agree with our l7 intelligence agencies that Russia led by Putin was our major foe in the world.
Kushner reportedly pushed the president to fire James Comey as F.B.I. director and Trump’s history shows that he looks for people to blame when an action backfires. It has been reported that he has focused on Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the main culprit because he did not alert the president in advance that he was going to recuse himself from the F.B. I. investigation into Russian involvement in our 2016 election. Trump is furious and blames him for the appointment of Mueller as a special counsel. Trump is mercurial as the world knows from his early morning tweets and attacks on federal judges and the “enemy press”. Whether he would ever turn on his son –in-law publicly is very doubtful. Ivanka is the closest of his three children and his family is always central to his security and identity.
When James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday, June 8, Donald Trump may actually tweet in ‘real time’ during his testimony. It will probably be the most watched political TV since the Watergate Hearings. In the weeks ahead, Jared Kushner will continue to play a key role in the White House. He certainly is part of Donald Trump’s inner circle —- metaphorically, flying close to the sun. We will find out in the weeks and months ahead if his fate will differ from that of Icarus.
Epilogue: Please read today’s NYT lead editorial (3/3/2018) on your computer to understand what has happened in the nine months since the original column was posted. …………………………………………………………………………………………………Joyce S. Anderson