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Destroying Jared Kushner: a five-part play

Jared Kushner.
Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty

It’s no secret a lot of people inside and outside the White House want Jared Kushner gone. They think he’s too inexperienced, too compromised by conflicts of interest and the Russia probe, and too ineffective. 

The big picture: Their revenge against him this week has been brutal, sustained, at times brilliant, and potentially lethal. What has unfolded is not the work of coincidence: it is the slit-by-slit slow bleed of a top adviser and son-in-law to the president. 

(Worth noting: Jared and Ivanka have outlasted many before — Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, among them. And there’s been a rule to not cross the family. But that rule is cracking and they now face their greatest test of survival yet.)

Act I: The knee-capping

The public humiliation of losing his top security clearance was telegraphed and then executed by Chief of Staff John Kelly. It was promptly leaked. Kushner, who fancied himself a de facto Secretary of State and peacemaker, lost access to the power of information. 

  • White House staff instantly turned unafraid to leak against Jared to reporters. He’s no longer seen as untouchable. Actually now seen as almost frail. They say he’s naive and has dim political insights.
  • At the same time, he lost his top image-shaper Josh Raffel, just when he needs him most. (Kushner has known for a while Raffel is leaving, but that doesn’t make the blow any easier.)

Act II: The humiliation

Nothing’s worse for ego and perception than to be seen as easy prey.  Cue the leak to the Washington Post: Foreign governments reportedly discussed ways to manipulate Kushner, "current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter" told the paper. They said his business dealings left him vulnerable. 

Act III: The Godfather turns

Rupert Murdoch, the master of Fox and the Wall Street Journal, has advised Kushner for years. They are allies, friends, mentor and mentee. There was nothing friendly about the lead editorial in Murdoch's paper politely suggesting the “knives are out” and it’s time for Jared to skip town. “Giving up their White House positions would be a bitter remedy, but Mr. Kushner and first daughter Ivanka could still offer advice as outsiders.”

Act IV: The plot

You can’t execute family without cause. The whispers, which turned into constant conversation, which turned into screaming headlines, is that Kushner mixed too much personal business with official governmental work.

  • Kushner, the New York Times revealed on its front page, took White House meetings with private equity billionaires and his family business benefited from their loans afterward. There is "little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business."

Act V: Tortured Trump 

One thing Jared and Trump have in common: they read Maggie Haberman and the New York Times. Nothing says family love and I’ve-got-your-back like this

“Mr. Trump is also frustrated with Mr. Kushner, whom he now views as a liability because of his legal entanglements, the investigations of the Kushner family’s real estate company and the publicity over having his security clearance downgraded, according to two people familiar with his views. In private conversations, the president vacillates between sounding regretful that Mr. Kushner is taking arrows and annoyed that he is another problem to deal with.” 

The End?

Erica Pandey 1 hour ago
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How China became a powerhouse of espionage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

As China’s influence spreads to every corner of the globe under President Xi Jinping, so do its spies.

Why it matters: China has the money and the ambition to build a vast foreign intelligence network, including inside the United States. Meanwhile, American intelligence-gathering on China is falling short, Chris Johnson, a former senior China analyst for the CIA who's now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios: "We have to at least live up to [China's] expectations. And we aren't doing that."

Caitlin Owens 1 hour ago
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Congress doesn't love the spending bill, but it passed anyway

Congressional leaders
Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Photo: Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the defense spending increase, Sen. Rand Paul angrily tweeted about arcane government spending, and Democrats shook their head at the lack of gun control measures. But most members of Congress accepted the omnibus spending bill for what it is: A giant collection of what has to get done to keep the government functioning, while mustering enough votes to pass.

Why it matters: This is a $1.3 trillion dollar bill affecting every branch of government that passed mostly because it had to. Members voted on it without really reading it, as it was released Wednesday night and passed the Senate shortly after midnight Friday.